Interview: Morgan Baden, Senior Director of Social Media at Scholastic & YA Writer

56d1abf2359d1323ecd3a41b24d0d12aMorgan Baden is Senior Director of Social Media & Internal Communications at Scholastic. She lives in Brooklyn and works full time in children’s publishing at a dream-come-true kind of job, where she gets to write about books and speak on panels across the country about social media best practices. She’s also a YA author, represented by Amy Tipton of Signature Lit, a sort-of yogi, and a volunteer for the amazing Girls Write Now. She grew up on the shores of south New Jersey and graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2001.

She has one contemporary YA novel on submission, and is hitting “send” on my next project, a YA magical realism/sort-of paranormal, this week! She talks about it here. Keep up with Morgan on her website

Let’s see how Morgan answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
My mom-mom’s front porch. I grew up in that house, which is a certified historical landmark on Long Beach Island, NJ, and now, on summer nights you can find four generations hanging out on that porch (three of which are usually drinking gin and tonics), smelling the salt air from the bay and people-watching. It’s bliss.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
I have two: “The Rescue Blues” by Ryan Adams and “Twinkle” by Tori Amos. (I really have 20 favorite songs, but I feel like these adequately represent my tastes!) I’ve been a Tori fan since I was 15 — right when Boys for Pele, the album Twinkle is on — was released. So I would put that CD into my 7-disc changer, sit in my bedroom sophomore year of high school, and just play it on repeat. As for Ryan — I think I discovered him in my early 20s. “The Rescue Blues” is so sultry and sexy…there’s no other damaged boy who sings about his pain the way he does.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Singing. I’d be able to stop turning down all these karaoke invitations!

On what occasion do you lie?
I err on the side of harsh, brutal honesty most times, but when I think I’m going to deeply hurt someone’s feelings, I’ll lie. Sometimes.

What is your present state of mind?
Eager! Fall and winter are my favorite seasons, and I have so many exciting things happening this time of year.

What is your motto?
My favorite high school teacher had this quote by Stephen Grellet on a poster on his wall, and I repeat it often: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Confidence. I’m drawn to people who know who they are and what they want.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Hilarious” is my adjective of choice, and every time I hear myself using it I die a little inside. I’ve also caught myself using “theoretically” a bit too often for my liking these days.

Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879

Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879

Your favorite painting?
The first time I went to the Met I was gobsmacked by Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage (which was unexpected, because I am not religious!). There’s something about her eyes in that painting — she’s haunting, and haunted, and you can see that she’s telling a story with them. It’s stunning. I had a framed print of it on my wall for years and years.

What is your favorite journey?
The journey of producing something — anything, really — from inspiration to idea to execution.

What is your favorite time of day?
Late afternoon, when it feels like some kind of shift is about to happen.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. (And only if it’s a decaf.)

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
I have more than I dreamed of right now…and yet I still want to achieve one more thing: publish my first novel.

Who or what is your first love?
The Baby-sitters Club. They were so formative to me as a reader and a writer; they’re what led me to work at Scholastic; they’re still the first books I reach for when I have an hour to spare and want to decompress.

What’s the last dream you remember?
It was my wedding day, and my fiance and I were thumbing through the guest book and freaking out because we didn’t recognize any of the names of people who had signed it. (Wedding planning is stressful.)

What’s your madeleine?
There’s this precise smell of boxes sitting in a musty storage space that gets me every time. As a teenager I worked at this tee-shirt shop on Long Beach Island, and on the morning shifts we had to restock, which involved exploring a couple of different storage units that were filled with boxes, overflowing with tees and sweats. I loved that summer job — I worked there for 6 or 7 summers and it was so incredibly formative — and every now and then I wander into a store that has a similar smell, and it always makes me smile.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Love.

Interview: Nikki Loftin, YA Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANikki Loftin is the author of THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY (Razorbill, 2012), and NIGHTINGALE’S NEST (coming 2/20/14). Nikki’s short children’s fiction has appeared in Boy’s Life and Pockets magazines. In 2012, she was also a featured author in Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves (Zest books).

A native Texan, Nikki lives near Austin, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. 

Check out Nikki’s website.

Let’s see how Nikki answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
A cup of cherry blossom tea, a bar of dark chocolate, summer sun on my face, my husband cooking curry in the kitchen, and the sound of my kids laughing outside. All that, or a really good book.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
I come from a long line of professional and gifted amateur musicians! So music was a huge part of my life when I was young. The song “You Are My Sunshine” popped into my head, though, possibly because my mom sang it to me when I was little, and I sing it to my youngest son almost every night now. And it’s easy to harmonize!

Which talent would you most like to have?
I don’t know why, but perfect pitch came to mind. My grandfather had it, and I would like to always sing and know deep down that I was in the very center of the note.

On what occasion do you lie?
When asked if I’ve already had dessert. If I say no, I might get more!

What is your present state of mind?
Is “intense” a state of mind? I am in the middle of some Very Big Things in my writing life, and I find myself thinking very intensely – to the point of missing most of my exits on the highway, and letting food burn in the kitchen far too frequently.

Maybe this is common for writers? I live so much of my life on the inside, exploring and building fictional worlds and characters. Sometimes I let the outside world slip a bit.

What is your motto?
“If you always do what interests you, then at least one person is happy.” I think Katherine Hepburn said it first. Smart lady.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Hmm. “Cool” is a definite possibility. “Awesome.” And… “Yes, I would like another scoop of ice cream, thank you very much.”

Your favorite painting?
It’s hanging in my hallway. I bought it in Santa Fe after my first book sold, as a present to myself. It’s an oil painting of a dark-haired woman holding a small owl. Every time I walk past it, I remember that moment when I first saw the painting and understood what it meant. Incidentally, it has a poem written on the back in Spanish – quite lovely. So, my favorite painting is also a poem!

526065_512310855461196_834251301_nWhat is your favorite journey?
I love the drive from Austin to Santa Fe. Everyone I know complains about how flat and boring West Texas is. I can see their point, but I just don’t *see* it! I love Texas so much, it’s all beautiful to me, in different ways. And I especially love this trip when I’m by myself. It’s where I do some of my best thinking for novels, get to sing whatever I want at the top of my lungs, and relax.

I guess that’s why I keep finding lovely excuses to drive myself to New Mexico. Not that I should need excuses.

What is your favorite time of day?
Dawn, although as a mom I’m far too busy to really enjoy a good sunrise. I love the colors, the birdsong, the stillness, and the cool. And all the potential for a truly glorious day!

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Pippi Longstocking! I would pick an adult literary hero I admire, but I’m afraid they’d be intimidating and every bit as socially awkward as I can be. But Pippi loves coffee, has a horse AND a monkey, and isn’t afraid to say exactly what she thinks. I think she’d be a riot – and to be honest, I like kids more than adults most days.

If Pippi weren’t available, I’d go with Aslan, hands down.

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
I’d like to see my grandchildren grow up. My mother-in-law passed away while my sons (her first grandkids) were still babies. I miss that for her, and I hope desperately to experience it.

As for my writing, I’m already there! I wrote the book of my heart, it’s being published next February, and to ask for anything more would be greed. But I’ll keep writing as long as I can––I love it.

Who or what is your first love?
I loved a sycamore tree when I was four. I told it all my secrets, and spent as much time with it as I could. Of course, I was reading most of the time – so books might tie as a first love.

What’s the last dream you remember?
Ha! A few nights ago, I was standing in a football stadium and noticed Willie Nelson was there, trying to get people to sing “On The Road Again” with him. But no one would stop to sing – they were all leaving the game. So I went up to him and volunteered to do a duet. It was awesome – my dream mind can do a perfect Willie impersonation.

What’s your madeleine?
The smell of honeysuckle in bloom. We had a fence covered in the stuff when I was little, and my sister and I would spend hours out there, plucking the flowers and pulling the stamens carefully out to make the “honey” bead up, then lick it off. It tasted like perfume and wine and summer and heat. That smell, that taste, makes me an eight-year-old again, with cut-off denim shorts and a banana-seat bike waiting to take me to Anne Marie’s house to play, by way of the long, straight ditch that held as many secrets as any archaeological site and more treasure than a thousand Aztec temples. Honeysuckle. I can almost smell it now.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?
Loving.