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.

 My daughter has three birthday parties to attend this weekend, which means I get some time to myself to read and drink tea. (That IS how parenting works, right? She gets parties, so I get books? She gets cake, so I get tea? If not, don't tell me; I don't want to know.)  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.
 Why, hello there, autumn. QOTD: What do you like best about fall?⠀ ⠀ AOTD: I can't possibly narrow it down to one thing. I love the autumn leaves, of course. And the crisp smell of the air. And the sound of the ravens congregating in our yard. And getting out my cozy sweaters to wear. And having the excuse to read and read and read. And, well, so many other things!⠀ ⠀ Photo details: Taken in the autumn-drenched La Sal Mountains of southeastern Utah while an evening storm drifts in.⠀ ⠀ Currently reading: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar.  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?
 I'm loving this new mug from the @enchantedprints Etsy store. QOTD: What does your favorite mug look like?⠀ ⠀ Books in the photo:⠀ ⠀ * PIPER MORGAN IN CHARGE by Stephanie Faris / @stephfaris ⠀ ⠀ * EVERYTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Mandy Hubbard⠀ ⠀ * SHUFFLE, REPEAT by Jen Klein / @jenkleinbooks/⠀ ⠀ * PIPER MORGAN JOINS THE CIRCUS by Stephanie Faris / @stephfaris ⠀ ⠀ * HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN by Jennifer E. Smith / @jenniferesmith/⠀  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.
 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!

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...
Continue Reading

My Mind Is Not Mine Own

I think I’m losing my mind. Even at the best of times my inner narrator provides an occasional play-by-play of my existence, but my current level of running commentary is reserved for the times when I’m almost exclusively absorbed in my writing, as I am now. The source of this narratus intrusionous? I spend hours recounting the lives...
Continue Reading

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...
Continue Reading

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...
Continue Reading

15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos

Introduction By posting this I am not claiming to be an expert. Most everything I know about iphoneography is self-taught via luck, experimentation, and sheer stubbornness. (Laziness, too, since my DSLR is too heavy and bulky to come with me on many of my adventures.) Also, my tips may not apply to every device, since I use an iPhone for all...
Continue Reading

Anybody Want a Cat? Or Three?

Free to good any home: Three moon-drunk felines weighing a total of thirty pounds. Can be separated, but extra vocalizations ensue when two youngest are apart. Special skills/talents: pitiful looks, persistence, precociousness, curiosity, ability to jump long distances, enthusiasm, admirable dedication to chasing computer cursors and wrestling...
Continue Reading

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 &...
Continue Reading

The Time I Almost Went to Art School (Except I Had No Talent)

When my brother and I were children, my parents believed in nurturing our talents and helping us become whatever we wanted to be. Kindergarteners have a very small skill set, but they get to paint a lot, so one September day I brought home a roll of manila paper. It was heavy with paint, damp and creased from where my fingers clutched it on the...
Continue Reading

A Field Guide to Insomnia – For Reals This Time

Well, that was embarrassing. A couple of days ago as I was typing up my bedside notes, I accidentally published a blog entry I’d written in the middle of the night. Then Sir Google the Vigilant picked up the post before I could erase it. And now it’s out there forever, half-formed thoughts and clumsy midnight sentences and all, the...
Continue Reading

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...
Continue Reading