Welcome!

Hi! I’m Caryn Caldwell. I live in the desert with my husband and daughter, plus 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 Danielle Barthel and Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Learn more about me here.

 One grey pebble on a cozy beach near Watsonville, California. QOTD: What is your favorite reading spot? . AOTD: While I have no need to go into the water, I love to sit in the sand; watch the ocean; and write, read, or brainstorm plots and characters for my novels. What about you?  We spent the weekend camping near a flower-filled meadow. It was delightful. QOTD: Do you like to camp? . I took this one in the golden glow of the setting sun on our second evening out. We were in southeastern Colorado, near Dolores. I was late getting back for dinner, but I had my camera with me, and the field of flowers was too hard to resist. . Currently reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (yet again). I just finished An Ember in the Ashes by @sabaatahir and loved it.  Sometimes it's good to get a new angle on things. QOTD: What do you do when you need a new perspective -- in life or otherwise? . AOTD: Depending on the situation, I go for walks in nature, or read, or email my agent @debarthel, or talk with an insightful friend such as @heatherclarkbooks @bridgidgallagher @quacktaculaura. . The Colorado meadow where I took this photo was wet and puddled from a recent storm. Moral: sometimes you need to get a little muddy and uncomfortable in order to see things differently, but it's generally worth it. . Speaking of doing things a new way, this is my first post with the #plann app from @plannthat. I think I'm going to love it -- especially with its drag-and-drop organization. Yay for new perspectives!
 There's nothing cozier than a book, a quilt, and a cup of tea. QOTD: What are you currently reading?  Sundays are perfect for reading books & drinking tea. QOTD: How do you like to spend your Sundays? . Book: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by @sabaatahir. This one is actually signed thanks to my friend Rebecca (who's not yet on Instagram), so I've mostly been listening to the audio version in order to keep the hardback safe. The hardback is so pretty, though, that it begged for a photo. . Tea: A delicious, cold-steeped peach Ceylon from @adagioteas , sweetened with a bit of local honey.  Oh, how I love this book, and the audio version is performed SO well! QOTD: Do you listen to audiobooks? . Book: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli / @beckyalbertalli . It's hilarious, suspenseful, swoony, heart-warming, and SO emotional -- all the best feels packed into one book! I listened to most of it in one afternoon while the rest of my family was out of the house, because I simply could not stop. I *had* to know if I'd figured out the mystery. HIGHLY recommended! More info in the next issue of my newsletter, THE BIBLIO FILES, which will be out in a couple of weeks. (Link in my bio.)
 In summer, our flower box is filled with day lilies. They're going to seed now. QOTD: Do you grow flowers? What kinds? . Currently reading: Wild Born by Brandon Mull  Goodbye, summer. See you after the snow melts. QOTD: What month(s) are you looking forward to? . AOTD: I actually love September and October for their cooler weather and fall colors. Plus they're perfect for curling up with a new book or, in my case, manuscript revisions. Not to mention how fun it is getting to know all my new students. But, truly, every month has something amazing about it, and I look forward to each one for different reasons. . I shot this one from the passenger seat of my husband's car as we left town for summer vacation. It seems so long ago now. Related: How IS it already September, anyway?  Mornings are hard, but it helps when the sunrise behind our apricot tree is worth getting up for. QOTD: What's your favorite time of day?
 Hey, look! I made a log cabin quilt, only with books. QOTD: Have you read any of these? What did you think? . Books in the picture: The King Slayer by @virgboecker Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher The Infinite Sea by @rickyancey Guile by Constance Cooper Landry Park by Bethany Hagen The Beautiful and the Cursed by @angie_page_morgan Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by @apriltucholke Flawed by @official_ceceliaahern The Peculiars by Maureen McQuerry Passionaries by @tonyahurley  Book mail is the best kind of mail -- especially when it brings a matching set of Harry Potter books and two Funko Pops. QOTD: What is your favorite book series? . AOTD: I've got to say, I'm definitely a Harry Potter fan -- especially since our whole family reads and discusses the books together. It's my husband and daughter's first time through the series, and I really enjoy listening to them make predictions -- some of which are surprisingly accurate, and some of which are totally off. Seeing it through their eyes is the closest I can get to reading the books all over again for the first time.  My six-year-old loves this book so much that she asked me to take a picture of her reading it. QOTD: What book was one of your childhood favorites? . Book: ANNA, BANANA, AND THE FRIENDSHIP SPLIT by Anica Mrose Rissi / @anicarissi. It addresses topics such as standing up for oneself, overcoming jealousy, and learning to forgive -- all in an entertaining, fun way that is sure to hook the attention of many early elementary kids. Definitely recommended, especially for girls who fear that having a backbone means they're -- gasp -- bossy. . See an outtake for this book shoot on my Twitter, @caryncaldwell. It's my daughter's idea of book styling. She chose Toaster for a filter because it was the most colorful. I kind of love her leave-nothing-out, make-it-all-rainbowy style.

That Beautiful Blank Page

I’m working on a new novel. To be clear, by “working on” I mostly mean “gazing into space” and “playing computer solitaire”. On occasion, though, I do actual plotting. I’ve even created a few characters and half a premise. (Go, me! Woohoo!) The voice is jelling, the characters jabbering, the setting...
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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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Lords of the Laptop

Sometimes it seems as if everybody wants to be a novelist. I’m sitting in my local coffee shop, where I retreated in order to — what else? — work on my own novel. The place is not crowded, but I count three others hiding behind their laptop screens. At the table beside mine, a man is explaining his screenplay’s entire...
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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...
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The Trouble with Audiobooks

Warning: Moderately explicit imagery ahead. If you are young and impressionable, easily shocked, or my parents, feel free to move along. This morning I kicked off my list of errands with a stop at the fitness center, where I pounded out a 55-minute suffer fest on their diabolical machines. I find that ignoring exercise is the easiest way to get...
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How to Use a “Resealable” Bag

Oh, dear. You’ve really done it, haven’t you? You just fell prey to one of consumerism’s biggest myths — the resealable bag — and now you’re staring at your new purchase, wondering how to get the thing open. What was it? Cheese? Cereal? Doggie treats? Come on, you can confide in me. Well, no matter what it was, let me tell you a little secret....
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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...
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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...
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How To Plot a Book in 16 Steps

I’ve recently entered the brainstorming stage of my next book. It’s a fun, crazy time. Sometimes my mood is rainbows. Sometimes it’s angst. Right now my mood wants lists (as it often does), so here you go: a step-by-step guide to plotting a book. All you writers out there, this is for you. You’re welcome. 1. Find the most...
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The Art of De-Collecting

Other than the occasional college hand-me-down, garage sale find, or unnecessary kitchen appliance, my main contribution to our household’s decorating scheme comes in book form. Hardcover, paperback, electronic – if you can read it, I’ve probably owned a copy. Sometimes two or three due to forgetfulness and a variety of...
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