Author Spotlight: Ann Haywood Leal

03272015 - coverAnnie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to host Ann Haywood Leal in our Author Spotlight blog today! Ann is a children’s book author and will be one of our guests at our Carnival of Children’s Authors & Illustrators on April 11th!

Thank you so much for joining us, Ann! Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I come from a long line of musicians, artists, and teachers. Since I’ve never been able to carry a tune, I was always given plenty of writing supplies and allowed to use the sharp scissors. Eventually, I put those writing supplies to good use and wrote my middle-grade novels, ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER and A FINDERS-KEEPERS PLACE.

My hobbies are reading, biking, running. I love them all, but the only one of those that I am truly any good at is the reading one.

I write for a middle-grade audience, but I teach first grade in Waterford, Connecticut. I have two daughters, two cats, and one husband.

In ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER, Harper Lee Morgan is an aspiring poet, named after her mama’s favorite writer, Harper Lee. When Daddy walks out, leaving them broke and eventually evicted from their home, life gives her a lot to write about.

With Mama scrambling to find work, Harper has to skip school to care for her little brother, Hemingway. Their lives have been turned upside down, which Harper could just about handle—if it wasn’t for the writing contest at school. Harper wants desperately to get back to school and read her poems out loud.

In A FINDERS-KEEPERS PLACE , Esther has been trying to keep things together for as long as she can remember. Her mama has always gotten Esther and her younger sister, Ruth, caught up in her outrageous ideas.   But Mama’s notions are getting wilder, and too many people are asking questions about what’s going on at home. It seems to Esther that the only person who can help is Ezekiel—the father she can barely remember. So Esther and Ruth take off to track him down. Somebody, somewhere, must know how to lead them to Ezekiel . . .

What was the inspiration for some of your work? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER is about a real life situation; Harper brings hope to the stark reality of homelessness.

I have volunteered at my local soup kitchen for the last several years. Harper is a fictitious 03272015 - Ann Haywood 012character, but some of who she is came from how I felt when I saw the faces of the children who stand in line with their families. I often get inspiration for my work when I am out on a run or a bike ride. One day I was out for a jog when I saw an old house with signs indicating that it was being slated for demolition. I immediately began playing the “What if” game with myself. What if a child lived there? And what if instead of having the house torn down, the family was being evicted? This became the beginnings of Harper’s story.

In A FINDERS-KEEPERS PLACE, I was actually out taking pictures for a completely different story idea. I love anything that is broken down or decrepit, because I always wonder about the stories behind the setting. What happened there? Who lived there, and what happened to them? I had heard that my town was tearing down an old bowling alley. I went out to snap a few pictures before the demolition. What I ended up seeing was a clothing donation bin with a sign that said NO DUMPING. On the ground right next to the bin, it looked like someone had dumped their entire apartment. There were overflowing piles of furniture, clothing, even schoolbooks and a Bible. It made me think about how a child’s prospective might be different. An adult might think of it as a junk pile, but a child might see it as treasure and possibilities. This became Esther’s vacant lot in A FINDERS-KEEPERS PLACE.

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

Sometimes we tend to get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of the publishing process. If you have something you love, a story about which you are passionate, never give up on it. Also, look for the hope and humor in all situations, and that includes your writing.

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

03272015 - Hawaiian VaudevilleI love music. I listen to a little bit of everything, but jazz is my absolute favorite. My dad has one of the most extensive music collections of anyone I know, and he always had something wonderful on the stereo as I was growing up. He plays the saxophone and his parents (my grandparents) had a vaudeville act in the twenties called “Haywood’s Hawaiian Players”.

I don’t usually listen to music when I write, because I end up getting distracted from my writing and paying more attention to the story in the music!
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?

In the balmy New England Winter, I write inside in a journal or on my laptop. I have a bookcase next to me with all of my favorite books from my childhood collection. I have a vintage Nancy Drew Collection, old library editions of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I also have a set of hardcover Dick and Jane readers.03272015 - Treehouse

In the Summer, I sometimes write up in my treehouse! You have to enter via rope ladder and through a trap door in the floor! I sometimes write on my back porch with my cats staring me down through the window .

Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?

I have two cats: Boo Radley and Charlie Bucket. I would have loved to answer the rest of this question, but Boo Radley kept trying to walk across my computer keys. He just typed “2qq”. Anyone know what that means? Should I be worried?

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

People can find my work in libraries and bookstores . . . you can find links for purchase on my website:

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?

Thanks! I’ll take any non-creepy stalkers I can get! You can find me at:

I also contribute to a group blog of middle-grade authors:

Thank you, again, for joining us, Ann! We look forward to having you at our Carnival of Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators on April 11th!

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Events Buzz Monday

03282015 - Stanley StanleyHappy Vernal Equinox! It’s good to see the daylight hours outpacing the darkness.

Our weekend at 65 James Street was a lot of fun with our visitors from Insanity Tales and Books & Boos Press this past Sunday. And with just over a week left for Women’s History Month, there’s still time to stop in and check out our display and specials up front.

We’re also participating in the Worcester–The City That Reads book drive again for 2015. Our box for book donations is to the right of the register. Donations should be new or gently used books appropriate for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester also offers an additional 10% off any books you buy just for this donation. We’re taking donations until April 30.

We also just picked up a big haul of Newbery Award-winning books, including Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh for all our dog-loving readers out there. We were also especially happy with the huge amount of Goosebumps books we’re adding to our shelves.

For our friends who are teachers, please feel free to send us copies of your upcoming summer reading lists so we can start stocking them now. You can reach us at

Now, onto our events! Below is our ongoing list with updates, but watch our website and Facebook page for even more updates!


This coming weekend has us with two events again!

On Friday, from 7:00-8:30 PM, Worcester Storytellers is back at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester with their open mic featuring special guests Linda McCarthy and Susan Matusen for a wonderful night if fiction and poetry.

And then on Saturday, March 28, from 2:00-4:00 PM Kristina England returns again to read and sign her mystery/noir book Stanley Stanley’s Investigative Services and Other Mysteries.

Kristina England resides in Worcester, Massachusetts. She earned her M.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Boston and works as a Communication Specialist at the University of Massachusetts System Office. Kristina serves as Secretary of the Worcester County Poetry Association, an Assistant Editor at the Ballard Street Poetry Journal, and the Web Manager for The Worcester Review. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Extract(s), Gargoyle, Haggard and Halloo, New Verse News, Poetry24, The Story Shack, Yellow Mama, and other magazines.

Coming up…

UPDATED INFO: Saturday, April 11, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Carnival of Children’s Authors: Panels, Discussions, Signings, and More! Join us for a full day of readings, talks, and signings with authors and illustrators who’ve done work for children of all ages. A full author list will post soon, so keep an eye on the ABSW calendar and our Facebook Page!

11:00 AM-12:15 PM: Readings from picture books and early readers for our younger audience and their family.

12:30-1:45: Panel of authors and illustrators talking about their work and answering audience questions.

2:00-3:15: Readings from middle grade and young adult authors for older audiences.

3:30-4:45: Panel of middle grade and YA authors talking about their work and answering audience.

And don’t forget our regular events.

Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social, 7PM every Monday

Hafta Craft Family Drop-in will begin on April 19 and happen the third Sunday of every month from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM. Children must be accompanied by an adult for duration of stay.

Literary Genre Trivia Night and Literary Genre Trivia Reprise WILL RETURN on MAY of 2015, resuming on the last Sunday of every month from 3:00-4:00 PM.

Worcester Storytellers happens the fourth Friday of every month from 7-8:30 PM. The featured guest for April will be Glenn D’Alessio. For the complete updates and schedules, follow Worcester Storytellers on Facebook!

As always, watch ABSW calendar and our Facebook Page for more details and updates.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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Events Buzz: Almost Officially Spring!

2015-03-16 17.28.48Hooray for Spring—it’s official as of this weekend with the equinox!

We had an absolute blast this past weekend here at 65 James Street! There was a lot of fun with Joan Duris at the Books and Bowling Bonanza Saturday morning at the Auburn AMF Bowling Center—and then people started showing up here at the bookstore as early as 1:30 PM for our 5:00 event with Ferrett Steinmetz, which ended up being a full house.

And, of course, its still Women’s History Month – have you checked out our awesome Geek Girl themed collections from Mad Norwegian Press? We have several copies each of Chicks Dig Time Lords, Chicks Unravel Time, and Chicks Dig Gaming.

Of course, we’ve still got lots of events happening at ABSW! We’re listing some below, but watch our website and Facebook page for even more updates!

Without further ado, here’s what’s going on:


We have postponed our event “Together, A Message” with Diane Lewis to Sunday, April 12. More information will be posted on our website and Facebook page.

Sunday, March 22, 1:00-3:00 PM Insanity Tales authors Q&A, readings panel.

You may have seen our blogs last week and the week before interviewing this awesome team of authors and editors—now meet some of them!

David Daniel is the author of eleven novels and more than a hundred short stories, and has won a Private Eye Writers of America Award (for The Heaven Stone) and was a Shamus Award finalist. Stacey Longo, editor of Insanity Tales and author of Ordinary Boy and Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify, was a featured author on the 2014 Connecticut Authors Trail. Dale T. Phillips is the author of four novels ( including A Memory of Grief and A Fall From Grace), over thirty short stories, and has appeared on stage, television, and in an independent feature film, Throg. Ursula Wong, author of Purple Trees, is a regional winner of the flash fiction contest sponsored by the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, and leads the NHWP Nashua chapter.


Insanity Tales features two short stories from each of these authors, and a novella by Lowell author Vlad V.

Coming up…

Saturday, March 28, 2:00-4:00 PM Kristina England reads and signs Stanley Stanley’s Investigative Services and Other Mysteries.

Saturday, April 11, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Carnival of Children’s Authors: Panels, Discussions, Signings, and More!

And don’t forget our regular events.

Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social, 7PM every Monday

BE CREATIVE – Hafta Craft Family Drop-in will begin on April 19 and happen the third Sunday of every month from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM. Children must be accompanied by an adult for duration of stay.

Literary Genre Trivia Night and Literary Genre Trivia Reprise WILL RETURN on MAY of 2015, resuming on the last Sunday of every month from 3:00-4:00 PM.

Worcester Storytellers happens the fourth Friday of every month from 7-8:30 PM. The featured guests for March are Linda McCarthy and Susan Matusen. For the complete updates and schedules, follow Worcester Storytellers on Facebook!

Keep an eye on the ABSW calendar and our Facebook Page for more details and updates.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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catsmysteries[Written by ABSW staffer Selina Lovett. Part One can be found here.]

In my last blog, I was on the subject of cats. Cats can be very mysterious, but the ones I was talking about were solving mysteries, or helping their humans solve them. There are many writers who choose to use feline sleuths as their main characters in their books, and I will attempt to highlight a few more of them for your reading enjoyment.

Carole Nelson Douglas is a very prolific author of more than sixty novels, several series of which are not related to cats. The one that is, however, is her Midnight Louis series, about a tomcat named Midnight Louis, and his human partner, petite redheaded publicist Temple Barr. Midnight Louis will have 28 titles when completed, the First being:
Cat in an Alphabet Soup (formerly Catnap)
The latest:
Cat in a Yellow Spotlight
Coming Soon:
Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit
Cat in an Alphabet Endgame

In the few books of Carole’s I have seen, there are separate pages and fonts for when Louis is speaking and thinking, and when Temple and the Humans are the prime focus. Very well done.

Some of us think that our cats are magical, and can do some out of the ordinary things. Sofie Kelly has written a series of 6 books about two cats that really ARE magical cats. That is – they each have a magical power. One can turn invisible, and the other can walk through walls. They also help her human character, Librarian Kathleen Paulson, solve crimes! Her first “Magical Cats Mystery Series” book is called:
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
The latest is:
A Midwinter’s Tail
Faux Paw (expected in 2015)
Fun reads. She also writes as Sofie Ryan, and has authored a series called the” Second Chance Cat Mystery Series”. So far, there are only two books in it:
The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Buy a Whisker (coming out in April)
Also great Cozy stories.

Since 1990, feminist and activist Rita Mae Brown has co-authored 21 cozy cat mysteries with her cat Sneaky Pie Brown. The result here is that both the animals in the book (a delightful array of feline and canine characters) and the humans speak, although not to each other. The animals do have wonderful conversations with one another, very humorous at times. Tiger cat Mrs. Murphy is the main character, along with her human, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, although it is Mrs. Murphy who is the real detective. The first book in the series of 21 novels is:
Wish you Were Here
Latest book:
The Litter of the Law

Miranda James is another author of Cat Mysteries. She has a series of 6 “Cat in the Stacks” books about a librarian, Charlie Harris, and his Maine Coon Cat, Diesel. The First book is called:
Murder Past Due
The latest book:
Arsenic and Old Books

Rebecca M. Hale has written 5 Cat Mystery Novels about a woman named Rebecca, and her 2 cats, Rupert and Isabella. Rebecca has inherited an antiques shop from her uncle in San Francisco, and has also inherited infamous clues to various hidden treasures. With a cast of frogs and an albino alligator on the loose in the series, these books are a lot of fun. The first book in the “Cats and Curios Mystery” series is called:
How to Wash a Cat
and the latest is:
How to Paint a Cat

I hope that this gives you some idea as to the many Cat mysteries that are out there for your perusal.

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Multi-Author Spotlight: The Team from INSANITY TALES

insanity_tales_front copyAnnie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to welcome a collection of wonderfully crazy authors to our Spotlight post this week. Last week, you met Stacey Luongo, who edited the anthology Insanity Tales. Stacey has now brought her anthology crew to chat with us!

Thank you all for being in our Spotlight blog! Can each of you share a little bit about yourselves and your work?

Vlad V: I’m the author of “The Sleep Artist” (Insanity Tales), The Button, Yorick, Brachman’s Underworld, and a children’s book. I’ve worked as a freelance editor, publishing consultant, freelance writer, and a journalist.

Stacey Longo: I’m the author of Secret Things, Ordinary Boy, two children’s picture books, and a couple dozen published short stories. My work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, from Shroud and Shock Totem to the Litchfield Literary Review. Also, I’m rumored to be a former runway model.

Ursula Wong: I’m a farmer, a computer engineer, and a writer who got married and had a kid along the way. Purple Trees is my debut novel, and it’s the story of a woman who struggles with a past that threatens to destroy her life. I’m also working on a series of WW II novels involving women in Eastern Europe fighting against the Soviet occupation. The working title is Amber Wolf but I’m open to suggestions.

Dale T. Phillips: I had Stephen King as a writing teacher back in college, then got sidetracked for a while, living life and writing a very flawed Great Canadian Novel. After years of honing the writing craft, my stories started selling. Wrote the first mystery novel in a series, then a couple more, and finally was able to fix that flawed first novel and make it good. Now busy with numerous writing projects, and not enough time.

What drew you to the theme of insanity? What is it that you find so frightening?

Dale: Our sanity is balanced on a thin edge at best, and it only takes a few episodes to tip the balance. Many of us have seen weird things we cannot explain. Add a few more of those events, and you start wondering where the line is. Writers live in a world that others fear to even think about, which makes us half-crazy to start with. Madmen sometimes have the knowledge we need to slay the monsters, so we need to listen to them at times.

Ursula: I think life can be disturbing. Tragedies like a child’s death or a rape are inherently scary. Focusing on such events and bringing in our own experiences can make for dark and chilling stories.

Stacey: For me, I think the concept of not being sure if you can trust your own sanity is pretty terrifying. My actions aren’t always perceived as sane, but at least I always trust them.

Vlad: Crazy has a tendency to creep up on a person. The guy mumbling to himself at the bus stop, the killer who swears he’s just like everyone else, the fanatics that use religion or politics or the fact that milk isn’t on sale as a justification for murder … Do they know they’re insane? Do they realize they’ve gone past the point of no return? I find the idea that crazy can seep into a person pretty disturbing, because I’m sure a lot of whackos started off as perfectly nice people. Do we all have a breaking point? If I snap, will I know it?

What was your favorite part of writing the stories included in this anthology?

Stacey: We really worked together as a team, submitting our stories to the whole group, and providing feedback on each. Watching the stories morph and improve with each round was amazing. The end result was higher quality fiction from all of us.

Ursula: I agree with Stacey. Working together as a team was the best part.

Vlad: What Stacey said. It was my first time collaborating in a group to produce a publishable work, and the energy that jazzed through us all was pretty motivating. Plus, I got to make Stacey’s nervous twitch kick in by making up cooltastic new words like “efficiefize.”

Dale: The characters. Both my stories have female protagonists, very different from each other. But they shine, and I’m happy to have brought them to light.

What part was your least favorite or the most difficult to write?

Ursula: I love the child, little Raymond, in Never Alone, who comes to terms with being a ghost. Vicky, in Dark Water, is a rape victim struggling with her memories while on vacation with friends in a tropical venue she finds haunting. I had to spend a lot of time thinking about rape in order to get the right feelings into the story.

Vlad: Formatting. I spent way too much time combining our different versions of Word into a cohesive file. That’s always my least favorite part about being an indie writer. It really makes my eyes ache and I get a sleepy, hazy sort of feeling … zzzzzz.

Dale: Rewriting to group edits. I pour out a version, then slog through the chipping away to make it fit someone else’s idea of the details of the story.

Stacey: For me, “Old Man’s Winter” was difficult because it was based on experiences members of my own family have faced. It was hard to hurt some of those characters—though some of their real-life counterparts are long dead—all over again.

What advice would each of you give to authors interested in writing and marketing shorter fiction? 

Vlad: I actually don’t write a lot of short fiction. “The Sleep Artist”, my story in Insanity Tales, is about the shortest I’ve gone so far in terms of work that I’d actually show anyone, and that’s about 20,000 words. I have to punt this question to the others.

Ursula: Find workshops and review your material to gain confidence in your voice as a writer. Put your heart into your stories. Readers will love you for it.

Dale: Soak in as much short fiction as you can absorb, then do more. Historical and modern, your culture and others, great literature and pure escapist trash, and everything in between. Study how stories are constructed, how characters come to life, how words on a page create emotions within you. Take an idea, water it to story growth, get feedback, and repeat a thousand times more. Sorry, no shortcuts. Good art takes work and sacrifice. But you also find pure joy in the creation.

Stacey: Pick up a copy of the Best American Short Stories—doesn’t matter what year—and read it cover to cover. Read every piece of short fiction you can find by authors you respect and admire. Write, edit, rewrite, get feedback from people whose opinions you trust, and rewrite again. Learn as much as you can about the market you’re submitting to. Don’t take rejection personally.

Was there anything you learned via research or experience for the story/stories included in this anthology?

Stacey: Nope.

Ursula: Everyone who contributed to Insanity Tales reviewed all the stories. As a relatively new writer, I learned a lot from the feedback from the other writers.

Vlad: Nah. I’m omnipotent. Just don’t tell my wife.

Dale: I had an image of seas of cornfields, but knew nothing about the harvest schedule of Iowa corn. Had to research that, and extrapolate the effect on the community from my own rural background.

Where can people find out more about you and your other works?

All of the authors involved with the project work together in a collaborative group, The Storyside. Learn more at

Ursula: Find me on my website, Subscribe to my popular Reaching Readers Email List for stories and free books. I can also be found on Amazon.

Vlad: On my website ( and/or Amazon.

Stacey: On my website,, and, of course, we’re all on Amazon!

Dale: On my website (, and all book retailers- Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.

Thank you all, so much, for stopping by our Spotlight blog. If anyone would like to meet the authors in-person, most of them will be at ABSW at 65 James Street on Sunday, March 22 from 1-3 PM. Come out for a visit!

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Worcester – The City That Reads: 2015 Edition!

2015-03-11 10.59.20Just in time for Kids and Teens Wednesday- an important announcement!

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, located at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA, is proud to participate in this year’s book drive for Worcester – The City That Reads, organized by retired educators John Monfredo and Anne-Marie Monfredo.

There is a large donation box located near our front door for new and gently used books appropriate for children ranging from kindergarten to grade 8. For books purchased at our store and donated to this book drive, we will offer an additional 10% off your total purchase and will provide a receipt for your tax records.

In John’s own words from this September 2014 article:

“A child who is not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade is in danger of not catching up and will enter middle school and then high school behind and struggling and possibly becoming a dropout. According to research, reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.

“This is the achievement gap you have read about for across our nation children from poor families of all ethnic groups continue to fall behind because they can’t read well enough. As a community we need to focus on reading and guarantee that every child can read at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. The research is not new for much has been written on this topic. The evidence continues to point out that the third grade is an important pivot point in the child’s education. It is the time when students shift from learning to read to beginning to learn.

“Thus, nine years ago as retired educators my wife, Anne-Marie and I started Worcester: the City that Reads. It was our intent to call attention to this crisis in education and to try to do something about it by alerting the community through an awareness campaign. One of activities that we continue to do is collect books for children preK to grade 8 and put them into the hands of children for summer reading. In nine years, with the assistance of the community, we have collected over 200,000 books and placed them into schools, social agencies and into the hands of our children. Now we are working with a host of partners to make a difference in the lives of our young readers.”

Books will be collected from now until April 30, 2015.

The book drive is just one way in which Worcester truly is The City That Reads. Information about the all-year-read literacy initiative can be found at

Our thanks for continuing to support us as your friendly neighborhood bookstore and our efforts to give back to our community.

—Patty and the staff at ABSW

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Today’s deliveries include the newest issues of two fine speculative fiction periodicals… SCI FI NOW and DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE.

Pick up your copies today and keep up with news of superheroes, Time Lords, star-spanning empires, earthly villains and alien monsters!

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