Welcome!

Hey there. Thanks for stopping by. I’m Caryn Caldwell. I live in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. with my husband, daughter, and a lot of bookshelves. We are accompanied by several armloads of fluffy cats and sweet guinea pigs. When I’m not out hiking with my family, I write middle grade and young adult books, and am represented by the fabulous Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Learn more about me here.

 Why, yes, sunflowers DO make good bookmarks. Why do you ask?⠀ ⠀ QOTD: What's the strangest thing you've used as a bookmark?⠀  Look! I fixed the flower after all the petals fell off. #allbetter #nailedit  A partially painted ink-and-watercolor piece inspired by 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip by @lisacongdon. I've found some wonderful ideas in the pages of this book.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: What is the last nonfiction book you read?⠀
 After the darkness of the last few days -- last nine months, really -- I'm trying to appreciate the good things in the world. It renews my strength, my ability to fight for what is just. Today I am grateful for love, fresh cherries in my breakfast, good books, love, children's smiles, immersing myself in writing, love, laughter, mindfulness, LOVE. What are you grateful for today? What keeps you going when the fight exhausts you?  Is it autumn yet? No? ⠀ ⠀ Okay, I admit it; this photo is from a few years ago. In fact, when I got in my car to drive home from work this evening, my dashboard thermometer said it was a balmy 113 degrees. But soon enough the aspen trees in our mountains will be wearing their yellow leaves again -- or so I hope! ⠀ QOTD: What are your favorite autumn leaves?  About to bloom! Sometimes the scariest-looking plants make the prettiest flowers.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: What do you have planned for the upcoming weekend?
 A little morning writing with my @journalingjane notebook.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: How do you like to start your mornings?  Summer flowers with my copy of the gorgeous and gripping book That Time I Joined the Circus by @jjhowardbooks.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: What are you reading this weekend?  I just finished listening to WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by @sandhyamenonbooks on audio, and it's just as amazing as everyone said. I loved the humor, the romance, the characters, the cultural references -- all of it! And I must say, I'm glad I listened to the audio version, because the readers were fantastic, adding even more depth to the story. Well worth the listen! Now I just have to decide what book to listen to next... QOTD: What's your favorite audiobook?
 Cacti can grow in the unlikeliest of places. Be strong like that. Where would you grow if you could?  Meet Beatrix the guinea pig (a.k.a. Stormtrooper). Her hobbies include eating grass and leaves, begging for grass and leaves, and playing in...grass and leaves. (She has very diverse interests.) At 1 1/2 years old, she and her friend Chewbacca are my daughter's favorite Christmas present ever.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: Tell me about your pets!  July is peach season, at least on the tree in our backyard. QOTD: What is your favorite fruit?

Word Nerd

In seventh grade, in the back of my parents' car, on the way home from another disastrous school-wide dance, my friend Rebekah and I lied to each other in the nicest possible way. "Nerds," we told ourselves, "Are awesome." They were the most misunderstood subgroup in the high school hierarchy. Everyone should want to be one. Those snotty popular...
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The Burn

The bedroom door swings open, light from the hallway streaming in. The cats, who have been lumped on top of me, scatter, eyes wide and tails at half mast. "Sorry to wake you," says hubs from the doorway. He was not tired when I succumbed to sleep an hour before, and is still fully dressed and alert. "They said we might need to evacuate, so I...
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Confessions of a Reading Addict

It began innocently enough: a brand new copy of Goodnight Moon and parents patient enough to read it to me night after night after night. But Goodnight Moon was the gateway drug for many of my generation, and I soon turned to more hard-core reads, such as Pickle-Chiffon Pie and Little Rabbit's Loose Tooth. In elementary school, our librarian fed...
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On Finding an Agent (or Two): A Post with Pictures for the Visually Curious

Last April I broke up with my agent of nearly three years. It was necessary, and risky, and terrifying. It meant leaving the only person in publishing who'd thus far agreed to champion my work, in order to find someone else who would, you know, champion my work. Writing that message was hard. It couldn't be undone, and there was no guarantee I...
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41 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

For the past several years I have volunteered at the local high school, advising a number of very talented students in the creative writing club. This year I mentioned NaNoWriMo to several of them. Word spread, and now we have a large group of students who are all determined to write an entire novel this month. Only problem? Some of them had no...
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Chat with Suzie Townsend & Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary (Part I)

UPDATE: Great news! The fantabulous Danielle Barthel is now officially taking queries. Find query instructions here, her New Leaf profile here, and her Pinterest MSWL board here. I have a special treat for you: the first installment of a two-part chat with agent Suzie Townsend and assistant Danielle Barthel (Bar-THELL) of New Leaf Literary &...
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A Post About Repairs — Now With Photos!

Seems everything needed repairs this week. First there was an elderly but sturdy machine at work, which required my second-favorite set of instructions ever: the now-infamous page 36 from the vintage manual I keep in a nearby cupboard. Raise your hand if you had to stifle a juvenile snicker when you read the title above. Raise both if you were...
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Dear Black & Decker: What Were You Thinking?

Setting up a new toaster oven should not under any circumstances require the following ingredients: 1) A plastic spoon 2) Four paper towels 3) All ten fingernails 4) Frequent misting of household chemicals 5) 28 minutes This goes double when above tools are necessary to forcibly remove a colorful, life-sized sticker whose only purpose is to tout...
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Imagine, if You Will…

The other day someone referred to me as "creative", and that got me thinking. Most of the time, I’m grateful for my imagination. It’s gotten me through many a meeting without having to spike my ubiquitous water bottle with something clear, strong and illegal in Utah. But it’s also responsible for such weird quirks as my never falling asleep in...
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Don’t Look Down: On Writing a First Draft

Here's the thing about first drafts: They are fun, but they are also scary. They are messy and muddled and awkward and hard. They have no guarantee. And they can make perfectionists like me very, very uncomfortable. But they are worth it for the times when everything works and, anyway, they have to be done in order to get to revisions. Even on...
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