Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Rebecca Donnelly!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Rebecca Donnelly, the author of


Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels–to be thrown away. Between her mom and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster.

But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: Things don’t always go where they’re supposed to, and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems. Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself.

Let’s talk to this awesome author about her incredible book!

This is Rebecca. Everyone say, “Hi, Rebecca!”

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Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Rebecca! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I write middle grade and picture books, and I’m a children’s librarian. Those two careers go really well together, and I think doing one helps me get better at the other. I’ve been a librarian for about 12 years, and my first book, How to Stage a Catastrophe, came out in 2017. My second novel, The Friendship Lie, came out in August, and my first picture book, Cats Are a Liquid, comes out in October.

Where did the idea for THE FRIENDSHIP LIE come from?

Most of my middle grade fiction ideas start with an image or a first line. In this case, the line was “There was garbage in the bathtub again,” which presents an image that requires some explanation. That led to my MC’s dad being a garbologist (someone who studies garbage the way an archaeologist studies ancient civilizations—pretty similar, if you think about it), and from there came Cora and Sybella’s friendship problems, Cora’s parents’ divorce, and the kooky diary that helps the girls find their way again.

That’s a fantastic first line!

Friendship is at the heart of this book and it’s an important theme for many middle grade novels. What kind of friendship advice would you give to middle grade Rebecca?

Middle grade Rebecca was kind of a mess, friendship-ly speaking. I would tell her that it’s okay to want to be by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you always have to be by yourself. Friendship is worth it.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE FRIENDSHIP LIE?

I learned a lot about recycling! For example, did you know that the chasing arrows symbol on plastic bottles in the US doesn’t mean it can be recycled? The numbers are a code based on the type of plastic used. Tl;dr, check with your local waste hauler.

Also, I learned that in the adoption world, older dogs are known as “senior dogs,” which accords them a measure of respect, I feel.

And I learned that there really was an Earth Week in April 1974, at exactly the same time Nixon was feeling the pressure from Congress about Watergate. Coincidence?

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

Cora and Sybella would love to spend some time in a fantasy world like their own Aquafaba, and Kyle would go anywhere with dogs, so a book about merdogs would be ideal. But while they wait for that, they can hang out with the Vanderbeekers of 141st St from the wonderful series by Karina Yan Glaser. It’s got animals, crafts, snacks, domestic adventure—the kids would love it.

Oh, I think they could definitely get up to some shenanigans with the Vanderbeekers! 😀

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I was a big middle grade reader. YA wasn’t as available when I was a teen as it is now, so when I think about my favorite books from when I was younger, it’s middle grade. Writing middle grade is very introspective for me, because I can think back to what it felt like to be a kid and read that type of book.

Any hints about your next book project?

It’s nonfiction! My editor at Holt asked if I had ever thought about writing longer nonfiction (my first nonfiction picture book comes out next year) and my answer was basically, I have now! I wrote a proposal, which was accepted, and now I’m into the preliminary research phase, which is glorious. You have all the possibilities and none of the realities.

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

The pendulum swing between disappointment and elation. A canceled contract here, a new opportunity there. A bad review here, a…less bad review there. I wouldn’t say I’m used to it, but I’m learning to expect it as a regular feature of a creative career.

What are you reading right now?

Besides the reading I’m doing for my nonfiction project, I’ve recently picked up an adult mystery (my comfort reads) called A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee, set in Calcutta during the British Raj, and Tillie Walden’s YA graphic novel On a Sunbeam, set in space. With fish ships.

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

When you feel down about any particular thing in your own career, try thinking like a librarian, by which I mean, look at the field of kidlit as a whole. There is incredible art being made every day. There are stories being told, and readers being created, and you have a role in that process. Even if you feel that you’re not moving forward, you can advance the field. You can be an advocate for kids and books. That’s part of the work, too. It’s crucial.

Yes! We’re all part of the big picture! I love that! Thanks for joining us, Rebecca!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE FRIENDSHIP LIE!
It’s out now!

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Add THE FRIENDSHIP LIE on Goodreads!

Connect with Rebecca on Twitter or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of THE FRIENDSHIP LIE!
Contest closes Saturday, September 14th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

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