Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life


If you only know him through his children’s literature, Roald Dahl’s short stories are always a bit of a shock to the system. He was, to put it mildly, a pretty morbid guy. His adult short stories are filled with grisly deaths, gore, and horror; something all the macabre humor of his children’s books doesn’t even come close to matching. So picking up this collection of his “country life” stories, I was prepared for the worst. And while these stories weren’t without their disturbing elements (rats and racing dogs make out particularly poorly), overall I found this book very refreshing. More than anything, I think it gives you an appreciation of the incredible life Dahl lived, and of how much of the wonder and fantasy from his children’s stories seems to have been drawn from personal experience. If Danny, the Champion of the World was your favorite Dahl (ahem… Kari), it would probably give you a thrill to realize that some of the most whimsical activities depicted in that book were lived experiences. His lovely portrayal of pastoral England is also well worth reading, particularly for those of us cooped up in tiny apartments. All in all, a nice window into the life of an incredible writer.

Silver Birch!!!


Wow!! Kari and I are so insanely thrilled… Margaret took home the Silver Birch Express Award in Toronto last Thursday! What a fantastic way to end of this whirlwind tour of Ontario. For those who aren’t familiar, the Silver Birch is a provincial readers’ choice award in Ontario. With over 100,000 kids voting across the province, we couldn’t be prouder to have been selected as this year’s winner in the middle grade category. The fact that we were chosen for this award by our readers makes it so meaningful to us — so much so that we are now hard at work on our next book!

As Kari and I said on Thursday, we’re so grateful to the Ontario Library Association for having us as part of the amazing Forest of Reading program. And to all the kids who took part in the program and voted: you guys are the BEST!!! Keep reading!

Marvelous Margaret Mayhem!

Kari and I have just returned from a full week of touring with the Forest of Reading, and after visiting Parry Sound, North Bay, and Thunder Bay we have reached a very exciting conclusion… We have the BEST. FANS. EVER!!! Not only did we get to meet and talk with hundreds of great readers, but we heard some amazing feedback about the book–including some things we hadn’t even thought of ourselves! Needless to say we couldn’t be happier about the way Margaret has been received, and it’s made us really enthusiastic about getting to work on our next joint book.

Plus, after winning the regional voting in each of those cities, we’re getting even more excited for the main event in Toronto this Thursday. Can’t wait to meet even more amazing readers!!


Some Very Exciting News…

Well, in the midst of moving to Jolly Old England, starting a Master’s degree, and working hard on my upcoming projects, Kari and I have received some wonderful news about Margaret and the Moth Tree…


While this news is a little overdue here (though not if you’ve been following us on Facebook), I’m very pleased to announce that Margaret has been nominated by the Ontario Library Association for the Silver Birch Express Award for 2012-2013! This award is part of the OLA program Forest of Reading, which is “designed to cultivate a love of reading for people of all ages” — our nomination is in the Grades 3-4 category. We can’t wait to attend the award ceremony next year to hear the winners!

If that wasn’t exciting enough (which it really is), Margaret has also been nominated for a Cybils Award in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” category! (Quick note: this page loads very slowly on my computer… but it could just be my slightly shoddy internet connection.) The Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) are nominated by the public and given out by children’s bloggers — we couldn’t be more proud to be included among the nominees!

Partly to celebrate, we’ve put together a trailer that should give you a bit of a taste of the book if you haven’t yet had a chance to read it. Feel free to share this or drop us a comment!

I’ll let you know how everything goes!

From C.S. Lewis, with love

C.S. Lewis is known for writing one of the most enduring and magical series for children, The Chronicles of Narnia. But for anyone interested in writing, his advice on the topic is also a must-read.

In a letter to a young admirer in 1956, Lewis summarized his philosophy on writing in these five concise points:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

At one point he takes an existential turn:

“If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.”

The full letter can be found here.

When it’s too hot to go outside…

Stay inside and write a new blog post!

The weather here in New York has been less than enjoyable these past few weeks. On a scale of one to “lava-freely-flowing-through-the streets”, I’d place it somewhere in the range of “OMG-shut-the-window-you’re-letting-out-the-AC!!!”

Give or take a degree or two.

Meanwhile, it’s been just over three months since the release of Margaret and the Moth Tree, and we’ve had some fantastic responses!

As a bit of a catch-up for anyone who doesn’t follow us on facebook (a situation you can easily rectify), here are some highlights from the reviews so far:

“A charming story of magical realism… The Trogens breathe new life into the old trope of the plucky orphan in dire straits.” — School Library Journal

“An impressive literary debut… Margaret’s spirit never flags, while the narrator’s archly humorous voice never fails to bring a smile.” — Richard Helm, Edmonton Journal

“There is a classic feel to the writing that makes the story sink right into your soul… I think this could easily make my top Middle Grade book of the year list.” — Claire Johnson, YA Books Central

Not to mention we received (via Twitter) our first ever fan mail! We’d love to hear back from anyone else who’s read the book, so feel free to drop us a comment or email.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go submerge myself in a bathtub filled with frozen peas.