Hello, Temre Beltz! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom, your debut middle-grade novel. I bet a flood of emotions rushed through your body when the email message containing The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom’s final cover landed in your inbox. What did you say to yourself before and after you opened the email message?
Temre Beltz: Since writing my first story at the age of seven, and finally hitting a milestone by signing with my agent Molly O’Neill, it’s probably not surprising that I’ve spent countless hours in between dreaming about what my book cover might one day look like. I never imagined an artist whose work I love—Melissa Manwill—and an incredible cover designer—Jessie Gang—would be the ones to bring my characters to life! Even still, I wasn’t one bit prepared for how my heart would react. When I opened the email from my editor Stephanie Stein at HarperCollins, my eyes went straight to Birdie. And I burst into tears. It is a funny thing to see someone for the first time, someone I’ve spent countless hours in the trenches with, and to know immediately that it’s her and that somehow, miraculously, she’s become . . . real. It is true book magic. And every time I catch a glimpse of Agnes Prunella Crunch—the story’s wicked witch who becomes Birdie’s pen pal—zipping jauntily through the night sky, I can’t help but smile and, most importantly, remember that what we need most is sometimes the last thing we’d ever expect. Revealing the cover on your blog today is a huge honor, Mr. Schu. Birdie’s story is really all about discovering the special magic of friendship and “togetherness,” so thank you for allowing me to get one step closer to the best “together” of all—sharing this book with readers.
Thank you for allowing me to reveal it.
Please booktalk The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom using no more than 140 characters (old school Twitter).
Temre Beltz: This is a story about hopeful orphans, sensitive dragons, grouchy witches, mysterious butlers, handwritten letters, and being found right where we are.
Thank you for providing a perfect booktalk. I LOVE the footnotes sprinkled throughout The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom. What are your thoughts on footnotes?
Temre Beltz: Thank you, Mr. Schu. I am so glad you liked the footnotes! When the book itself emerged as the narrator I was thoroughly enthralled (who hasn’t wondered what a book might say about all those words it carefully stows beneath its cover?) and a fair bit nervous. But I shouldn’t have been. Books were made to be read. A book is not truly complete until it has found a reader. And this book, in particular, has traveled a very long way to tell its story and is oh-so-eager to journey with the reader, sticking close during the scary parts and never failing to provide all sorts of (mostly useful) insider information conveniently located at the bottom of the page.
Please finish these sentence starters:
Birdie Bloom thinks there is hope in an unfinished story; in a kingdom like Wanderly even something as ordinary as the blueberries cannot be underestimated; and sometimes the roof-rattling, foundation-shaking, deep-in-your-bones howling of the wind isn’t anything to be afraid of at all.
Story is a wonderful friend. It is always there where you last put it, its front cover is open to all, it never rushes you, it never grows tired of you—in fact, it would love nothing more than to be read over and over and over—and, just like any good friend, it reminds us that even in the darkest parts of our own stories, and perhaps especially then, we are never truly alone.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I chose to write a story involving a wicked witch. First, once you meet Agnes, you’ll probably understand that whether I wanted to write about her or not was sort of beside the point (it’s not usually a good idea to say “No” to a witch). Second, when I was in the fourth grade I tried out for the school play and my very shy self was cast in the role of the wicked witch. I was horrified! I was asked to cackle! In front of people. But it was perhaps the best thing for me because that’s when I began to think, what if there are other “witches” like me? What if there are other characters who feel they’ve been miscast? How do you navigate the world when you feel like you are “stuck?” And, most important of all, is there any way to become “unstuck?”