First, let’s set the scene.
It’s 1998. A drizzly Western Washington fall afternoon. My eighth grade creative writing teacher turns off the classroom lights, illuminates some battery-operated candles, and spends the whole class period reading to us out of an anthology of stories that horror writers wrote with their kids.
Oh, maps, how I have a love-hate relationship with thee! When I was a teenager, I’d go straight to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy
section of my local B.Dalton and look for books with maps. No map, no deal. Which meant that I read a lot of Fantasy,
and very little science-fiction. When I wrote my first Fantasy short story, it was for an assignment in seventh grade
for which we had to write a story that was at least six paragraphs long with at least one illustration. I wasn’t
willing to display my lack of drawing talents to my teacher, so instead I drew a map and explained to her that all
Fantasies had maps.
Pacing is something I think a lot about when I’m working on a novel. And something we talked a lot about in my Popular
Fiction workshops: some genres, like romance, have specific conventions around when certain events (like the love
interests meeting) absolutely must happen. Anne Leonard’s debut, stand-alone Fantasy Moth and Spark, took my
expectations of pacing and threw them out the window in a daring and entirely fruitful way.
This impressive debut novel is the first book I’ve read in a long time that made me feel a perfect balance of tension
between wanting to keep reading and wanting to write because I’m so inspired by what I’m reading. When I read something
this good, feeling exactly what the writer wants me to feel, it reminds me that I could inspire the same feelings in
In September 2001 I was sixteen years old and living in northern France. I was a high school exchange student, living
in a family that wasn’t working out as well as I’d imagined they would. On September 11, my older host siblings told
me there was something I needed to see on TV, and I watched the Twin Towers collapse live.