Friday, July 25, 2014

Friend Friday

I've known Stephanie Bodeen so long, I can't recall when we first met. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her better when we were both on the faculty for what is now the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts. She's got a flair for the heartwarming (Elizabeti's Doll) and the heartpounding (The Compound). Her brand-new middle grade series is called Shipwreck Island; the first book is a thrilling and lively read-- don't miss it!

S.A. Bodeen

I’ve been a reader ever since I can remember. My childhood was spent on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, about as far from an ocean as one can get. In fact, I didn’t even visit an ocean until the age of fourteen. Yet, the books I gravitated toward as a child had oceans. In particular, islands. I must have read Two on an Island by Bianca Bradbury, about a boy and his sister trapped for several days with no food or water, upwards of thirty times. Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink, about two sisters stuck caring for four babies and toddlers,was another I read over and over.

Did I want to be marooned on an island? No, thank you. (I’m afraid of deep water and don’t even like to swim.) Did I want to read about someone else being marooned on an island? Yes, please.

Fate has a sense of humor, because in 2002, I moved with my husband and two young children from the Midwest to Midway Island. Yes, that Midway of World War II fame. Though it now holds the official title of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the paltry Pacific patch is still a mere one by three miles in area and a sketchy 1500 mile swim from civilization. We traveled there in an aging 18 passenger turbo-prop, a white-knuckle flight that was fictionalized with some creative license (Spoiler Alert: they crash)  in my YA novel The Raft. After nearly three years on Midway, I perhaps qualify— in some circles, anyway— as an expert on remote island living. Well, at least enough to try my hand at writing my own island story.

Shipwreck Island, my first middle grade series, was inspired by those authors who brought island adventures to life for me, as a child, shivering under the covers in my ancient farmhouse bedroom. But writing in a new genre scared me. I’d been successful at both picture books and YA. Could I meet somewhere in the middle and still tell a good story?

I turned in the first book and waited, terrified, convinced that it was terrible. My editor told me it was my best work yet. (Insert huge sigh of relief here.) I’m currently on editorial revisions for the third book of four in this series billed as Swiss Family Robinson meets Lost. I won’t reveal much, except that the danger, the suspense, and the unknown? All there. Did I mention surprises and cliffhangers? Oh yeah. There are some of those too…

S.A.Bodeen is the author of many award-winning picture books including Elizabeti’s Doll , as well as several acclaimed YA novels, including The Compound and The Raft. She grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and has lived in eight states, two African countries, and one insulary possession. She holds an MFA from Spalding University and lives with her family in the Midwest. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. I read Carol Ryrie Brink's Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons many times, but I guess our library didn't have any other books by Brink or I would have read them. Thanks for the tip. I will be looking for your books, Stephanie. They sound very exciting.

  2. My family (husband, son who is nine, and daughter who is six) love your picture books, Stephanie! I talk about the Elizabeti books in all of my professional development sessions for teachers (about songs and stories from around the world), and I do a story time entitled "A Journey Through Tanzania" where I share your stories, too! I can't wait to introduce your new middle grade series to my son! Thank you for doing what you do!