Kicking Back with Kick-butt, Kathie MacIsaac, and Colleen Nelson!

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Kathie MacIsaac and Collen Nelson, the authors of


There is no single path to the job of your dreams. What does it take to become a stuntperson? How does a
mathematician spend her days? When does a barber become the center of a community?

In this refreshing take on a careers book, meet twenty-five individuals of different backgrounds, genders, and abilities who have found their careers through a wide range of experience, education, intention, and inspiration.

From Joshua Jones, who built a business where he could thrive as a Deaf interior designer, to Teresa Tam, whose hunger for knowledge led her to the position of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, each of these dreamers found ways to dig deep into their passion, to gain experience and knowledge, and to turn that into a job.

Let’s talk to these outstanding authors about their phenomenal book!
This is Kathie and Colleen. Everyone say, “Hi, Kathie and Colleen!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Kathie and Colleen! Tell us about yourselves!

Kathie: Hi Casey, and thanks so much for having us! 

I’m Kathie, and I run the children’s department in a public library in Manitoba. I’m also a co-founder of the MG Book Village website, and I blog about books at Bit About Books with Laurie Hnatiuk. This is my first nonfiction book, and I’m very excited to have it in the world.

Colleen: I’m Colleen and I teach middle years. This is my sixteenth book, but my first non-fiction and I’m also so excited to have it out in the world!

What was the inspiration behind IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT?

K: We wanted young readers to see a wide variety of jobs and people passionate about what they do. And it was important to us that kids see they don’t have to have their life figured out before they leave high school.

Absolutely true and a really great point to make.

How did this partnership come to be? What was it like working with a co-author?

K: Colleen and I knew each other from a committee on which we sat, and then we started the MG Lit Online Book Club together at the start of the pandemic. We realized how well we worked together, so when the idea for the book arose, we knew we could collaborate on it. We each did our profiles individually, frequently checking in to discuss our progress, but I’m still amazed how our similar writing styles make it difficult to tell who wrote which profile!

That’s so cool!

Can you each share an interesting thing you discovered while working on IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT?

K: So many of the people we profiled didn’t have straight paths to their jobs. Many didn’t discover what they loved to do until they were in their 20s and had some life experience. I think it’s really important for kids to see they can change their minds about their futures.

C: I loved learning about the obstacles people faced and how they overcame them. Many of the folks we talked to were so inspiring. Social justice was an element that ran through a lot of jobs in unexpected ways. 

How did you decide which individuals to include in IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT?

K: We spent a LOT of time researching online to find individuals who loved their jobs and had a unique angle that readers might find interesting. For example, we profiled a female smokejumper and an NHL scout who work in traditionally male-dominated fields. It was also important to focus on diversity so all kinds of young readers could see themselves represented in the book.

What’s your favourite part about working on non-fiction projects?

K: I love conducting interviews. I spoke to so many interesting people, and I found it fascinating to hear their stories and the paths that led them to where they are today. 

C: I’m mainly a fiction writer so I liked the feeling of accomplishment that came after completing a profile. Unlike a book that takes months (and months!), I could complete a profile in a few days. It was satisfying!

Any hints about your next book project? (Either together or individually?)

K: I can’t say much at this point, but keep your eyes open for another collaboration from us.

C: I have a middle grade book out this spring and I’ll work on anything with Kathie! She was the best writing partner I could have asked for.

Oooh, exciting! Can’t wait!

What has been the most surprising part of the publishing journey for each of you?

K: I wasn’t expecting long periods of time between stages of publishing a book. I had to learn patience and trust the process.

C: How seamlessly the writing feels. Readers won’t know there were two writers working on this book. I also love Scot Ritchie’s illustrations–they add a whimsical feel to the book.

What are you reading right now?

K: I’m currently reading Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi, a story about a pack of rescue dogs that have to learn to work together and protect each other.

C: I’m reading ‘Framed’ by James Ponti. My students and I love his City Spies series. My read alouds at school are ‘Butt Sandwich and Tree’ by Wesley King and ‘Dry’ by Neil Shusterman. I also love audio books and am almost finished ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins.

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

K: Be open to collaborating with another person on a writing project. Sharing ideas and letting the process unfold organically can lead to a great partnership.

C: Don’t be limited to one genre or type of writing because it’s familiar. Taking a risk and trying something new turned into one of my favorite writing experiences.

Both excellent points!

Thank you so much for joining us, Kathie and Colleen!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out
It’s on shelves now!


Connect with Kathie on Twitter or Instagram!
Connect with Colleen on Twitter or Instagram!

Click here to enter to win a copy of IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT!
Contest closes Thursday, December 8th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Salma Hussain!

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Salma Hussain, the author of


Mona Hasan is a young Muslim girl growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, when the first Gulf War breaks out in 1991. The war isn’t what she expects — “We didn’t even get any days off school! Just my luck” — especially when the ground offensive is over so quickly and her family peels the masking tape off their windows. Her parents, however, fear there is no peace in the region, and it sparks a major change in their lives.

Over the course of one year, Mona falls in love, speaks up to protect her younger sister, loses her best friend to the new girl at school, has summer adventures with her cousins in Pakistan, immigrates to Canada, and pursues her ambition to be a feminist and a poet.

Let’s talk to this excellent author about her wonderful book!
This is Salma. Everyone say, “Hi, Salma!”

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

Hi Casey and the Kick-Butt Kidlit team! I’m a debut author of a Middle Grade coming-of-age & immigration novel for tweens, THE SECRET DIARY OF MONA HASAN, based on my own immigration story from the Middle East to Canada.

What was the inspiration behind THE SECRET DIARY OF MONA HASAN?

Whe my older daughter was 5, she turned to me sleepily at bedtime and asked me, “Mama, you were born outside of Canada, right? Were you a regular kid just like us?” That set off the spark! I felt strongly that only a child could answer my child’s question and I created a novel around what a “regular kid” born outside of Canada might be like.

We love hearing stories about ‘The Call’ here on Kick-butt Kidlit. What were you doing when you found out your book had sold?

My lovely agent sold the book quickly. It was on submission for only about three weeks or so. I was at home when I found out the news and celebrated by ordering in from my favorite restaurant! (It was still pandemic times so….)

It sold in three weeks! That’s awesome! Glad you were still able to have a little celebration even though it was at home.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE SECRET DIARY OF MONA HASAN?

— Continuity is so important in all novels novel but particularly so in those written in diary format! I didn’t anticipate how challenging it would be to keep the pace engaging with so many weekends and holidays and festivities in the school calendar.

— The important and defiant role of humour in my book.

— 95% of the success in completing a novel lies in consistency and persistence. The rest of the secret sauce is in your self-confidence.

Never thought about how challenging a diary format would be! And you’re so right about consistency and persistence!

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

I cannot choose only one  book! I’m going to say that I would love for MONA to meet with Margaret of ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, because my book deals with many of the same themes. Secondly, MONA simply HAS to meet Adrian from THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE 13 3/4 because my book employs a similar tone to that British classic.

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I was drawn to writing a character who is 11 going on 12. I love this age for the humour and hope it represents. At various times, I toyed with somehow making this book for an adult audience but I did want to remain in a child’s voice throughout and that was then considered “middle grade.” 

Any hints about your next book project?

I’m drawn to creating compelling characters! I’m working on three different projects (1 YA and 2 adult) and it remains to be seen which one calls for me to finish it first!

Oooh, exciting! Can’t wait until you can tell us more!

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

Still processing this one! I’ve been surprised by so much! I guess the most surprising part is just how much the publishing journey oscillates between feeling like it’s moving way too fast and then at other times, feeling like it’s moving like molasses.

What are you reading right now?

Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Putlizer prize winner in 2022). It is the comedy of a gay man fleeing the humiliations of love, middle-age, and failure by accepting invitations that lead to a trip around the world and back, at last, to face his final demon: himself.

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

Be your own hero.

Yes! Love this.

Thank you so much for joining us, Salma!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out

It’s on shelves now!


Connect with Salma on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THE SECRET DIARY OF MONA HASAN!
Contest closes Saturday, November 5th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Christina Matula

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Christina Matula, the author of


Holly-Mei Jones couldn’t be more excited about moving to Hong Kong for her mother’s job. Her new school is right on the beach and her family’s apartment is beyond beautiful. Everything is going to be perfect . . . right?

Maybe not. It feels like everywhere she turns, there are new rules to follow and expectations to meet. On top of that, the most popular girl in her grade is quickly becoming a frenemy. And without the guidance of her loving Ah-ma, who stayed behind in Toronto, Holly-Mei just can’t seem to get it right.

It will take all of Holly-Mei’s determination and sparkle (and maybe even a tiny bit of stubbornness) to get through seventh grade and turn her life in Hong Kong into the ultimate adventure!

Let’s talk to this terrific author about her fantastic book!
This is Christina. Everyone say, “Hi, Christina!”

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

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Christina Matula and I’m a Canadian author of Taiwanese and Hungarian heritage. I mention my heritage right off the bat as the main character in my debut Middle-Grade novel, THE NOT-SO-UNIFORM LIFE OF HOLLY-MEI, is also a Canadian of mixed-Asian descent. I love playing field hockey and swimming, as well as bubble tea, all things in common with Holly-Mei.

What was the inspiration behind THE NOT-SO-UNIFORM LIFE OF HOLLY-MEI?

Until recently, I had been living in Hong Kong for 14 years and it was the most fantastic place: a cosmopolitan center; lush green hills; and a unique mix of Chinese and Western culture. I really leaned into my Asian heritage when I moved there – studying the language and learning about the wonderful local customs, festivals, and folktales. I wanted to share this magical part of the world with others, as well as share a story about someone with a similar background to mine, a Canadian of mixed Asian descent, who moves internationally and learns more about their heritage while also learning more about themselves.

Always love when you get to travel somewhere via a good book!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE NOT-SO-UNIFORM LIFE OF HOLLY-MEI?

i) All the places the kids in the book visit in Hong Kong are places I’ve been many times but writing about them allowed me to take a deeper and slower look at everything, making me appreciate my surroundings even more. 

ii) There is a lot of talk about food in the book and whenever I would re-read or edit, I would get cravings for all the amazing food and snacks I got to eat in Hong Kong.

iii) I loved writing about girls who play sport and thought that I’d like to see more books focusing on that aspect of their lives, so keep your eye out for Book 2 in the Holly-Mei series. 

Navigating friendships (and frenemy-ships) is an important part of Holly-Mei’s journey in this book. How did you tackle writing the ups and downs of a realistic middle grade friendship

Friendships are definitely key for this age group. When I had to be more specific in certain scenes, such as come up with conflict or instances where Holly-Mei stumbles, I had to revisit events and feelings from my own time in middle school. Sometimes that was fun, other times (most times), a bit cringe inducing. But I was always left with a feeling of hope.

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

I would love to put Holly-Mei and her friends in the plot of The Mysterious Benedict Society so they can solve mysteries and save the world. I would love to see them use unique ways to figure out solutions to puzzles and problems.

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I love this age. It’s a magical time where kids are starting to question their surroundings but still see things as right and wrong and in black and white – there are no grey areas yet. Their innocence makes me want to root for them and also makes me hopeful that our future is in good hands. Both my kids were in middle grade as I wrote the book, so I was inspired to write something they could both relate to and enjoy.

That’s so wonderful that you were able to share that with your kids.

Any hints about your next book project?

I’m thrilled there will be three books in the Holly-Mei series, all set in Hong Kong at Tai Tam Prep. The next adventure sees Holly-Mei and her friends compete in an all-city sports tournament. Although Holly-Mei tries hard to keep her faults in check, some new insecurities surface, and her competitive nature comes to the forefront. But will her push to win push her friends away? Book 2, The Not-So-Perfect Plan is out April 2023.

Yay! That’s great news!

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

I started out writing picture books and THE SHADOW IN THE MOON, about the lunar Mid-Autumn festival, came out in 2018 with Charlesbridge. But I found that I couldn’t tell the stories I wanted to within the tight word count (under 1000 words). I was too nervous at first to try anything longer, but I decided to let go and see where my thoughts would take me. I found that my stories and voice gravitated towards middle grade.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished BORDERS, a graphic novel by Thomas King, illustrated by Natasha Donovan. It’s about a young Blackfoot boy and his mother who are stuck in limbo between the US and Canadian borders. It touches on the complexities of Indigenous identity while remaining hopeful that understanding is within reach.

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

The simplest advice but the hardest to do: start writing and don’t stop until you’ve finished your story. I spent two years talking about Holly-Mei’s story before actually starting to write – it seemed so daunting to write a whole novel. I found it immensely helpful to outline the whole book before starting and then I chipped away at it one chapter at a time. It’s much less scary in bite-sized pieces.

‘Bite-sized pieces.’ LOVE THAT.

Thank you so much for joining us, Christina!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE NOT-SO-UNIFORM LIFE OF HOLLY-MEI.
It’s on shelves now!


Connect with Christina on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THE NOT-SO-UNIFORM LIFE OF HOLLY-MEI!
Giveaway closes Friday, August 19th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Jessica Vitalis!

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Jessica Vitalis, the author of


Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.

Let’s talk to this wonderful author about her excellent book!
This is Jessica. Everyone say, “Hi, Jessica!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Jessica! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

Thank you for having me! I’m a Columbia MBA-wielding children’s author with a passion for dark, magical stories. I’m also a mother of two teen girls and the keeper of two adorable (but mischievous) cats as well as one sweet dog. As an American expat living in Canada, I spend most of the time I’m not writing trying to stay warm.

What was the inspiration behind THE WOLF’S CURSE?

I was standing in front of my bookshelves, casting about for inspiration, when I noticed my worn copy of THE BOOK THIEF. I wondered what kind of story would emerge if I tried writing a book with Death as the narrator. And so THE WOLF’S CURSE was born!

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? (We always love these stories here at Kick-butt Kidlit!)

I was sitting at my computer when a notification of a new email from my agent flashed across my screen. I’d only been on submission for three weeks, and after several years on submission for various projects with my previous agent, I didn’t expect any news for several weeks, if not months. I opened the email and discovered not only that it was a very attractive offer from one of my dream publishers, but that they’d offered a two-book deal. I started shrieking and (ugly) crying; my daughters heard the commotion and ran in the room. I read them the email and the three of us danced and cried for the next several minutes while I tried to calm down enough to call my agent and hold a (semi) rational conversation. You can read the full story of how I got my agent and two-book deal (and see the photo my daughter snapped when she first ran into the room) here.

That photo is the BEST! Love the joy on your face!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE WOLF’S CURSE?

The most interesting discovery is that the attitudes and rituals surrounding death look different all around the world. For example, a traditional practice among Buddhists in Tibet is Sky Burials, where bodies are placed at the tops of high peaks in order to feed vultures as part of the food chain. The Tinguian people of the Philippines wash their loved ones bodies, dress them in finery, and seat them at the front of the house for up to several weeks. The realization that there are many different ways to grieve and honor the dead opened a door that allowed me to develop my own rituals for THE WOLF’S CURSE.

The second thing I learned while writing THE WOLF’S CURSE is that, despite my best intentions, my stories are probably always going to combine elements of dark and light. I’d written five full manuscripts before this novel, and they were all fairly heavy. When I decided to write a book with Death (or a death-like character) as the narrator, I decided I would have fun with it—I thought perhaps I’d write an adventure or even a comedy. Although there are elements of adventure and humor in the story that emerged, no one will ever accuse me of having written a comedy!

Finally, I learned a lot about wolves, including the fact that although they have a reputation for being independent (hence the term “lone wolf”), they are actually pack animals and extremely loyal. Did you know they often mate for life?

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

What a fun question! Both Gauge and Roux are interested in seeing the world, so they’d probably enjoy leaving their French-inspired medieval/renaissance lives and exploring the modern world. I think they would get along with Kitty from Yvette Clark’s GLITTER GETS EVERYWHERE, so perhaps they could tag along with her in both London and New York?

That sounds like an adventure and a half!

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

My first attempt at a novel was a memoir and my second was a young adult novel. At the same time, I was exploring picture books. My critique partners kept telling me that my picture book attempts all sounded like the first chapters of middle grade novels. It wasn’t until I finished David Almond’s KIT’S WILDERNESS that I realized middle grade was the perfect fit for the stories I wanted to tell. 

Any hints about your next book project?

The only thing I can say at this point is that the premise is both the exact opposite of, and a perfect complement to, THE WOLF’S CURSE!

Ooooh! Can’t wait to hear more!

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

How long it’s taken; I wrote six books over the course of thirteen years before landing my first book deal!

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Heather Kassner’s THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS (so gorgeous and creepy and heartfelt!), and I’m getting ready to start THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN by Andrea Wang. 

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

Never give up!


Thank you so much for joining us, Jessica!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE WOLF’S CURSE!
It hits shelves on September 21st!

Add THE WOLF’S CURSE to Goodreads!

Connect with Jessica on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THE WOLF’S CURSE!
Contest ends Friday, September 10th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Liselle Sambury!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Liselle Sambury, the author of


After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.

Let’s talk to this brilliant author about her fabulous book!
This is Liselle. Everyone say, “Hi, Liselle!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Liselle! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

I’m a Trinidadian-Canadian author and describe my brand of writing as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.” Blood Like Magic is my debut novel.

What was the inspiration behind BLOOD LIKE MAGIC?

I really just wanted to write a fun witch story and thought it would be interesting to set it in Toronto. I was living away from my hometown at the time and felt really homesick, so setting the story in Toronto was a way to feel more connected to my city. Overall, I wanted to create the sort of Black girl led fantasy I would have loved to read as a teen.

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?

I was at work! I used to do social media marketing at a travel company, and I was just doing my usual thing when my phone lit up from my agent about hopping on a call. I immediately ran off to call her, because I knew we had interest from my now editor Sarah. I thought it was going to be a call saying we were going to second reads aka that more people at the publisher were going to read it first and maybe it could go to an editorial meeting, but it ended up being an offer. So, it was a very happy surprise.

Love that!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on BLOOD LIKE MAGIC?

I learned a lot about my own family history and how they went from being enslaved in the United States, to being given land in Trinidad and Tobago, to immigrating to Canada. I learned what rotten sugar cane tastes like (I needed to describe it in the book) first from my grandma’s account and then accidentally from personal experience. And finally, I learned quite a bit about slavery practices in Canada that were very much concealed in my education.

How did you tackle the world building with BLOOD LIKE MAGIC? Was there one key aspect that you built everything else around or did it grow organically from the plot or something else entirely?

I initially did not plan any world building which I came to regret later. I had the idea that they needed to use blood to use magic, and that otherwise they would have a gift that didn’t require blood. I basically ran with that, and I added rules as I went, and edited things that didn’t work. It was the same with the DNA modification in the book. I essentially just ran with the idea that there now existed a machine that made simple modification of genes in living humans possible, and like the magic, built things as I went on. I would not recommend this method because I had to do a lot of editing, but that’s how it came together.

Sometimes a book just wants to take a twisty-turny path on its way to being finished, right? 😀

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

This is hard because so many fantasy worlds are terrible, and I’m already so mean to my characters. I feel like I owe it to my main character Voya to transport her to the world of Like Home by Louisa Onomé. It’s set in a neighbourhood very near Toronto, and it’s got this wonderful group of friends that I feel like she would love, since her friends are basically just her family members. I also think she would enjoy the break from non-magical conflict and would appreciate helping Chinelo in standing up for her neighbourhood. Like Home very much examines the reputation of certain neighbourhoods and how they can be treated like moveable objects instead of real people. I think that’s definitely something Voya could get behind and that she would be happy to do everything in her power to help out.

Any hints about your next book project?

I am working on the sequel to Blood Like Magic, which I won’t chat much about because there would be so many book one spoilers, but I will say that I’m excited about it. I also have a young adult novel called Butcherbirds coming in 2023 which has a mysterious inherited mansion, family secrets, complicated mother-daughter relationships, and ghosts.

So excited for both of those!

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

To me, the most surprising thing has been the genuine and strong connections that I’ve made with other authors along my journey. When I first joined the writing community, I truly didn’t expect that—writing is a solitary activity after all. But the friendships that I’ve made as I’ve gone along on my journey have been the thing that has played the biggest role in me not giving up, in me fighting to get my stories published, and in helping me through bad times and hyping me in good times.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading the physical book of Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas, which is a spooky Peter Pan inspired fantasy, and on audio I’m listening to Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire because I’ve heard so much about this series and I had to try it out for myself.

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

Focus on what you can control—the writing.

In this industry, it’s very easy to get caught up in things like wanting to be on lists, or featured in blogs, or getting into a book box, etc. Almost all of that, you don’t have control over, and so it can be so frustrating or devasting when you don’t get any of those accolades that you wanted. It’s very easy to get consumed by those things. But when you focus on writing the best book possible, that’s something you have full control over. Now, I always say to myself “you wrote the best book you could” and move on, and good things that happen are great, but I can’t freak out if something I wanted doesn’t come because I already did the work. I already did my best. My job from now is to do that on the next book, not obsess over what I did or didn’t achieve with the first. I just find that attitude to be very freeing.

Such good advice and one of the most important things to always try and remember!

Thank you so much for joining us, Liselle!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out BLOOD LIKE MAGIC!
It’s on shelves now!

Add BLOOD LIKE MAGIC on Goodreads!

Connect with Liselle on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of BLOOD LIKE MAGIC!
Contest ends Friday, June 18th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Angela Ahn!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Angela Ahn, the author of

Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L. B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust.

Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L. B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once—he needs time to sketch out a plan.

Let’s talk to this wonderful author about her delightful book!
This is Angela. Everyone say, “Hi, Angela!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Angela! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

Thanks for inviting me, Casey! My name’s Angela Ahn. My family immigrated from Korea to Canada in the early 70’s. I grew up in Richmond, BC and Vancouver, BC and except for 2 years in Hong Kong, and 2 years in Toronto, Vancouver has always been home.

I went to UBC for many, many years and earned many, many degrees, some of which have proven useful. 

I am married with two kids, and probably couldn’t survive without my coffee machine. 

What was the inspiration behind PETER LEE’S NOTES FROM THE FIELD?

I won’t repeat it here, but in the acknowledgments section at the back of the book, I tell a long, potentially tragic, but ultimately uplifting story about a girl (my daughter), and her stuffed dinosaur which was purchased at the gift shop at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. For one long day, we thought the aforementioned dinosaur was lost, but turns out it actually was just unceremoniously jammed into a drawer. I know it sounds crazy, but that dinosaur was the spark for this story. 

Love when ideas come from the most unexpected places!

Your main character, Peter, has dreams of being a paleontologist. What was your dream job when you were a kid?

I’m not trying to elicit sympathy here, but I honestly do not remember dreaming of being anything. Perhaps I had no imagination, or if I’m getting truly introspective here, I suspect it was because as a child of immigrants, I think our family tended to focus on practical ambitions, like “Get a good job!” It was more a question of what on earth am I decent at, and how can this translate into a job? I always did well in social sciences in school, so guess what, I did a double-major in English and History. What can you do with that degree? High school teacher! I only lasted 5 years. Just because you’re a good student in a subject doesn’t mean you can actually teach it. 

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on PETER LEE’S NOTES FROM THE FIELD?

I learned about asthma. I have an acquaintance who had a child with asthma and she didn’t know it at the time, but when she was talking about her son’s health, I listened intently because I knew I was writing this character who had asthma. I ultimately got a writer friend, Sophie Gonzalez, who has asthma herself, to read an almost completed draft so she could offer comments to add more authenticity to Peter’s experience. 

I had to re-learn a lot about dinosaurs. At one point, I’m not bragging here, but I was kind of an armchair expert. My kids were obsessed so we watched a lot of documentaries on dinosaurs, and had a lot of information books. But as their interests changed, those books started to collect dust. I even gave some away! (I regretted that decision, I must say.) So I had to reacquaint myself for the book. 

Lastly, I learned that writing is definitely not a solo effort. It takes, not a village, but maybe a very large family of people helping you along the way. 

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

I think L.B. would have her mind blown if she could travel between parallel worlds like in The Golden Compass. Peter would probably fit right in with the trio of boys in Mrs. Bixby’s Last Day as they fumble around together to try and do something sweet for a beloved teacher. 

Why are you drawn to writing middle grade?

I guess I’m not the most mature 40-something mom out there. I love the voice of a tween, what can I say? I’m a kid at heart.  

Any hints about your next book project?

Maybe not realistic contemporary? Wait and see!  

Ooooh, exciting! Looking forward to when you can share more!

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

I never realized how hard it would be to actually hear what people think about my books. Reviews are the best and the absolute worst. I’m a Gemini. 

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston–amazing. I won’t give away the big twist at the end, but it’s the kind of book that just compelled me to finish it as soon as possible. I am in the middle of a Whale of the Wild  by Rosanne Parry now, and there is this scene that reminded me so much about the real story from, I think 2018, of the orca that kept the body of her dead calf afloat for over 2 weeks that’s just very heartbreaking. 

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

 My first book was published when I was 45 years old. It was the first children’s book I had ever attempted. Don’t think there is a straight-line for your own individual creative journey. 

Love that! And it’s so important to remember.

BONUS QUESTION: What is your favourite dinosaur?

Brachiosaurus! (Must read the acknowledgements section of the book to find out why I’m deeply attached to this kind of dinosaur).  

Thank you for joining us, Angela!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out PETER LEE’S NOTES FROM THE FIELD!
It’s on shelves now!


Connect with Angela on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of PETER LEE’S NOTES FROM THE FIELD!
Contest ends Friday, March 12th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Nadia L. Hohn!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Nadia L. Hohn, the author of

When Malaika finds out she is going to have a new baby brother or sister, she worries that her mother will forget about her. But a surprise arrives on Malaika’s birthday that gives her reason to celebrate her family’s love.

It’s summertime, and Malaika and Adèle are enjoying playing carnival in their bright costumes, dancing and laughing in the sunshine. But when Mummy announces that they will soon have a new baby brother or sister, Malaika is unsure how to feel about another change in her family. Will Mummy forget about me?

Back at school, Malaika is excited to see her teacher and classmates, and makes friends with a new girl who has recently arrived from a faraway country, just like Malaika. Then on her birthday, a surprise arrives to remind Malaika of the importance of family, and the story ends with a celebration of her family’s love.

Let’s talk to this fantastic author about her lovely book!
This is Nadia. Everyone say, “Hi, Nadia!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Nadia! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

I was born and live in Toronto. I am a Black Canadian author and educator of Afro-Jamaican descent. I am an MFA student in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. I am a vegetarian, musician, aspiring illustrator, and multilingual. I love to watch artsy films, cook, work out, and can’t wait to travel once this quarantine is over.

MALAIKA’S SURPRISE is the third book in the Malaika series. What was the inspiration behind Malaika’s latest adventure?

This book began as two separate stories. Then it became one. And then two. I began to conceive the idea of a third Malaika book during my year of teaching in the UAE in 2016. There, I experienced the hospitality of this Muslim country. As a Christian and a Westerner, it was a shift to a different cultural centre and norm. I was living in the UAE when the Quebec mosque shooting took place and it was upsetting. I wondered how this event might have Malaika and her family have responded to given that they live in Quebec City. Because I had already done some research and interviews among Black people living in Quebec City for Malaika’s Winter Carnival, I had an idea that many new immigrants felt in terms of isolation and I can imagine more so now given Bill 21.

I had also decided that I wanted the new character to be Muslim and Somali given that there was an absence of Somali-Canadian characters in Canadian children’s books. While the illustrations were being completed for Malaika’s Surprise in 2019, the Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh was tragically killed. I had seen Hodan speak and just before I had moved to the UAE, after my going away dinner, we had a short chat. I had just gone through my divorce. At the time, Hodan was both a single mom and divorced but very positive. She basically said I should give her a call and, “We should talk” as she had a lot of advice to share. I saw Hodan as an ally, like the character in my book, who was telling me it would all be okay. Sadly, the conversation never took place. Malaika’s Surprise is partly dedicated to her.

The story also reveals some of the feelings I had about my youngest sister being born (the book is also dedicated to her) and the importance of fathers.

The Malaika books are illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. What’s it like seeing your characters come to life in the illustrations? Did you get to see sketches along the way?

It’s an exciting part of the process. Irene works in mixed media so the advanced sketches I saw were also mixed media, a little less detail than what’s in the final product. I enjoyed it and it’s kind of fun to see how Irene takes my words and interprets them, especially since this book is so full of surprises.

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

I am not sure if you mean putting Malaika into another book but I do imagine Malaika in other genres. I have been working on a play for a few years now and I would love to see it as a short series or film on Netflix, for example. Just putting it out there.

That would be amazing!

What do you love most about writing picture books? What’s the most challenging part?

I love that you can say a lot in 1, 000 words or less with pictures. I have a Masters degree in equity studies and look at the world with an antiracist lens. So, if you look at my articles, I write explicitly about inequities in the children’s book industry, for example. However, in a picture book and even children’s non-fiction, I need to break down big ideas into poetry, music, and ideas that are accessible for the young reader.

Any hints about your next book project?

I just signed a book with Orca. It will be an anthology of sorts. I don’t want to say too much about it yet. I have a few picture books down the pipeline and editing my middle grade novel. Stay tuned!

Oooh! Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon!

Some people like to write while listening to music or when they have a hot beverage in hand or at their favourite spot in a cozy chair. What’s something that always helps you get settled into a writing session?

I tend to write a lot while in my bed while wrapped in my comforter. My secret is out now. I do some of my writing at my desk but usually that’s when there is a deadline. Lol.


Are you a pantser or a plotter? What are some of your favourite methods you’ve come up with to tackle writer’s block?

I tend to be a pantser. I admire the plotters though as that seems to be the one I wish I could do more of. I may need to do more plotting for my middle grade book though.

Some of my favourite methods I’ve come up with to tackle writer’s block– just start somewhere. I set a 30 minute timer and sometimes I’ll just read my work. Or, I’ll boldface the title of the chapters. Or I’ll Google search the topic. I just try to do something that will move my story a long further.

What are you reading right now?

I proposed a directed reading course as part of my MFA program, so I am reading all young adult books about Black girls. I am currently reading Facing the Sun by BC based author, Janice Lynn Mather.

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

My favourite piece of kick-butt advice is by author Toni Morrison: If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

Evergreen advice!

Thank you for joining us, Nadia!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out MALAIKA’S SURPRISE!
It’s on shelves now!

Add MALAIKA’S SURPRISE on Goodreads!

Connect with Nadia on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of MALAIKA’S SURPRISE!
Contest ends Friday, March 5th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Louisa Onomé!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Louisa Onomé, the author of

Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good.

Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to “fix” it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.

Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything⁠—and everyone⁠—she loves.

Let’s talk to this awesome author about her amazing book!
This is Louisa. Everyone say, “Hi, Louisa!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Louisa! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

Hey! I’m Louisa Onome, and I’m a writer based in the Toronto area. My debut young adult contemporary, Like Home, is all about friendship, family, and what it really means to change. When I’m not writing, I moonlight as a therapist (I know, the shock!) and can usually be found hanging with friends (pre-pandemic, anyway) or glued to my PlayStation. 

What was the inspiration behind LIKE HOME?

Like Home was inspired by a slew of things, but first and foremost, I had really wanted to write a story that depicted the kind of childhood closeness I had with friends growing up. I was fortunate enough to live on a street where the kids on my street were all close friends. Each of us were kids of immigrants, so our experiences differed based on where our parents were from, but we had so many similarities trying to navigate our environments. And then, of course, the catalyst for me actually writing the book was this Korean drama I watched called ‘Reply 1988’. It broke me! The relationships on that show reminded me so much of my own upbringing and it made me want to try my hand at writing a story like that.

Love that!

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? (We always love these stories!)  

Ha! I am notoriously always frying plantain or trying to cook something oily whenever important publishing news comes out. I distinctly remember tweeting something ridiculous (as I normally do) and then, immediately after, my editor emails me with the announcement and I had to tweet that. So both tweets back to back definitely looked like they belonged to different people, but I’m cool with that because it just proves we all contain multitudes!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on LIKE HOME?

Oh I love this question! The main thing that I discovered while writing Like Home is that I can tell a story that is authentic to my own experience, to a world I am familiar with, and people will still connect with it. Prior to Like Home, I wrote four other manuscripts, none of which anyone will ever see because they just weren’t very good. But something that stuck out to me in those old attempts is that I wasn’t being myself. I was writing protagonists I had no business writing, and I was writing about things I didn’t even truly care about. Once I got rid of the idea of what was acceptable for me to write, and once I really tapped into things that matter to me, it became so much easier to write this story.  I also discovered that I enjoy writing friend fights and I swear a lot more than I thought I did.

What an invaluable discovery! (But also laughing about the swearing thing. 😂)

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

I would love to put them in a fantasy setting, so maybe the world that Roseanne A. Brown created in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin! It’s so rich and the folklore feels so real.

Why were you drawn to writing YA?

I love YA because of its freshness. Personally, when I was that age, it was the last time anything was new. You could conceptualize and experience firsts in a way that is hard for me to do the older I get. I think a part of me wants to always remember what that feels like, and reading and writing YA is such a thorough way of reliving those emotions. On another level, I just love how creative YA can be and how we can explore so many difficult themes in a variety of ways.

Any hints about your next book project?

Yes! My next project is also a YA contemporary, currently titled Model Minority. It’s about a Nigerian-Canadian girl who is caught between both aspects of her culture, the Nigerian culture she is born into and the Western culture she was raised in. At its core, it’s a story about identity and how we put these labels on ourselves that may hurt us more than help us. There is also a love triangle, which I’m having a lot of fun writing. It’s scheduled to come out spring 2022 and I’m so excited for readers to experience aspects of my personal culture.

Looking forward to it!

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

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am every time I meet a new, supportive writer. The community is so cool and I’ve found that there’s always someone willing to help when you need it. 

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I have the immense pleasure of reading Courtney Gould’s The Dead and the Dark. It comes out August 3 and it’s so haunting! Literally hooks you from the first page.

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

My favourite piece of advice is pretty simple: Keep going. I know that can mean a lot of things to different people, and truly it all depends on your perspective as well, but when I say keep going, I mean continue writing, continue learning, and continue growing. The journey only stops if you do!

One hundred percent! So true!

Thank you for joining us, Louisa!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out LIKE HOME!
It hits shelves on February 23rd!

Add LIKE HOME on Goodreads!

Connect with Louisa on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of LIKE HOME!
Contest ends Saturday February 20th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Debbie Ridpath Ohi!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of


A girl, a flamingo, and a worried potato star in the third book in New York Times bestselling author Michael Ian Black and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s series about feelings—and why they’re good, even when they feel bad.

Potato is worried. About everything.

Because anything might happen.

When he tells his friends, he expects them to comfort him by saying that everything will be okay. Except they don’t. Because it might not be, and that’s okay too. Still, there’s one thing they can promise for sure: no matter what happens…they will always be by his side.

Let’s talk to this fantastic creator about her amazing books!

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

Debbie Ohi.png

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

My name is Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and once upon a time I used to be a computer programmer/analyst. Now I write and illustrate children’s books for a living! I still pinch myself every so often, to make sure I’m not dreaming.

I’M WORRIED is your third collaboration with Michael Ian Black. What’s it like collaborating with an author on a story? What’s your favourite part of the process?

For picture books, or at least the ones I’ve worked on so far, I don’t really collaborate with the author during the creative process. The author works with our editor to polish the picture book manuscript, and I only tend to receive it when it’s ready for me to start illustrating. Sometimes after I start talking to my art director and editor about illustrations, we find that the text needs to be tweaked a bit. If that’s the case, this discussion is between the author and editor, not me and the author.

Not all publishers work like this, but this has been the case with the picture books I’ve worked on so far with Simon & Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.

Depending on the book and situation, I will occasionally reach out to an author for some input. In an I’M WORRIED spread showing things that Potato is worried about, for example, I asked Michael Ian Black for some ideas and ended up incorporating a bunch of these into the illustration:

Like Anything.png

Who are some of your artistic influences?

Just to name a few of my illustrator influences: William Steig, Bill Watterson, Jules Feiffer, Charles Schulz, Edward Gorey.

You also have written and illustrated a number of your own picture books. How is that experience different for you?

Yes, mainly because I felt more free to change things around as well as to experiment. I come from a writing background (I got my awesome agent because of my middle grade writing plus I worked for years as a nonfiction freelance writer) and have waaaaaaay too many story ideas for picture books and middle grade than my current work schedule can support. Oh, for Hermione’s Time Turner! I’m constantly striving to find the right balance between contracted book projects, work-related events and working on my own writing projects.

I will always enjoy illustrating other people’s stories (especially Michael Ian Black’s stories), but I am also finding myself yearning to get more of my own writing out there: picture books, chapter books, graphic novels and middle grade.

Oh, my goodness – the things we could get done with a Time Turner!!!

What artistic tool could you never live without?

My favorite sketching tool: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

I love the variable ink line! Learned about this from David Small at an SCBWI Los Angeles Illustrators’ Intensive session.

My current obsession, though: CRAYONS.

Why were you drawn to illustration?

I’ve always loved to draw.

As I grew up, I especially enjoyed making comics for myself, family and friends. I’ve always loved the challenge of conveying a narrative through sequential art.

I’m hoping to do graphic novels someday! I already have some ideas. One of the challenges is streamlining my process. One of the reasons I opted for sequential art format in my contribution to Colby Sharp’s THE CREATIVITY PROJECT is because I wanted to test this. What I found: my current process takes way too much time. I’ve been talking with other graphic novel illustrators about their process in hopes of improving mine.

Any hints about your next book project?

I’m having so much fun illustrating Linda Sue Park’s new picture book story, GURPLE & PREEN! It incorporates photographic elements (crayons!) as well as illustrative, and it’s been exciting to experiment with new techniques. This new book is scheduled to come out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2020.

I’m also working on a middle grade novel, and am also excited about my next illustration project: I’M HAPPY, the next picture book in the I’M… series written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by me (Simon & Schuster).

Exciting! Can’t wait to hear more!

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

Like many in the industry, I consider myself an introvert. When I first began working on my middle grade novels, I remember thinking how I much I enjoyed that part of the creative process, and how terrified I was at the idea of having to go out and TALK to strangers (in the process of networking and promotion).

What I found, to my shock: that despite my utter conviction that I could never learn to do it and would always hate it, that I COULD learn how to get out there and meet people in person. It drives me a little crazy whenever people tell me how lucky I am, that I’m so natural at talking with people at work events, etc., because they don’t realize how scary it all was in the beginning, and how hard I’ve worked at improving. It’s still scary, and I continue to need improving! But it’s easier now, and I even (*gasp*) have fun doing it, especially when I’m talking to young readers.

To other introverts out there: I highly recommend QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN’T STOP TALKING by Susan Cain. I discovered her through this TED talk:

What are you reading right now?

I usually have a bunch of books on the go in various formats (print, digital, audio). Right now, it’s:

THE MAGPIE’S LIBRARY by Kate Blair (Cormorant Books)

TRACE by Pat Cummings (Harper)



The latter two are the result of a recent vacation in Rome. 🙂

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

Resist comparing your own progress to others, especially on social media. Focus on enjoying your own journey at your own pace.

Also: if you are considering writing picture books for publication – READ MANY, MANY PICTURE BOOKS FIRST. So many new picture book writers assume that writing picture books is easy because they’re so short. Yes, it’s easy to write a picture book — the challenge is writing a picture book that will sell.

Both very excellent points! Thank you so much for joining us, Debbie!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out I’M WORRIED!
It’s on shelves now!

I'm Worried.png

Add I’M WORRIED on Goodreads!

Connect with Debbie on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website, blog, or
YouTube channel!

Click here to win a copy of I’M WORRIED!
Contest closes Saturday, October 19th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!



KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Giveaway!

Spotlight on Canadians Header

Two months, twenty-five interviews, and hopefully MANY new names for your book shelves! This spotlight series has been a ton of fun to work on. I hope all of our Kick-butt readers at home enjoyed it as well.

But wait! We’re not done yet!


You can enter to win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing Canadian authors and illustrators!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway!
Ends April 28th, 2019!

Covers Group.png

Missed one of our interviews? Get caught up by checking out the links below:

Authors Group One.png

Sarah Raughley, Joanne Robertson, Naseem Hrab, Tom Ryan, Carmen Mok

Authors Group Two.png

Regan McDonell, Jennifer Mook-Sang, Mireille Messier, Mahtab Narsimhan,
Philippa Dowding

Authors Group Three.png

Tanaz Bhathena, Charlene Chua, Natasha Deen, Erin Bow, Melanie Florence

Authors Group Four.png

Nafiza Azad, Cale Atkinson, Nhung Tran-Davies, Sarah Everett, Qin Leng

Authors Group Five.png

Wade Albert White, Aviaq Johnston, Nadia L. Hohn, Jess Keating, S.K. Ali

Stay tuned for more awesome interviews with amazing Kick-butt Kidlit creators and as always, thank you for reading!