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When You and I Collide through July 24th

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Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Sera Rivers Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/11/2021

Renae Moore Agent Spotlight Interview on 8/25/2021

Nicole Eisenbraun Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/15/2021

Agent Chloe Seager and Author Brianna Bourne Guest Post and Query Critique and You and Me at the End of the World Giveaway on 9/20/2021

Crystal Orazu Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/22/2021

Kristin Ostby Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/11/2021

Ginger Clark Agent Spotlight and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/25/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have Lois Sepahban here to share about her debut MG historical fiction PAPER WISHES that released on January 5th. It’s set in World War II in one of our Japanese internment camps. It sounds so good and timely that I’m hoping to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II--and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.

Hi Lois! Thanks so much for joining us.

1.  Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi, Natalie! Thank you for having me here.

I was an obsessive reader as a child, and by the time I was 9 or 10, I was writing stories. When I was an adult, it occurred to me that I could pursue a career as a writer. So then I started taking writing classes, where I learned about SCBWI and joined a critique group.

Because I am a teacher, it was a natural step for me to write nonfiction books. I’ve written several on a range of topics—history, science, biography, current events, and so on. I learned a lot about outlining and revision from writing nonfiction. These days, though, I focus primarily on fiction. I teach full time and have a family, so I try to save my writing time for my special, personal projects.

2. Yes, I can see how your reading as a child and being a teacher would have led you to write. Where did you get the idea for PAPER WISHES? And are you surprised at how timely your story is given what’s going on in the world now?

The idea for PAPER WISHES came from several places over a long period of time. I grew up in central California, so I knew about Manzanar and the internment camps of World War II as a child. For many years, I had wanted to write a story set there. The ideas that became Manami and Yujiin and Grandfather and Ron came from a variety of places while I was researching: old newspaper articles, photographs, interviews, and so on.

And you’re right—Manami’s story is particularly timely given what is happening in the world, specifically regarding the refugee crisis and the rhetoric of some politicians. The World War II internment camps imprisoned people based on their ancestry. Leading up to those camps, laws were passed that outlawed immigration to the U.S. based solely on race. But that was more than 70 years ago. I hope that, 70 years from now, we will view others through a lens of compassion instead of fear.

3. I hope so too. PAPER WISHES is set in Manzanar, an internment camp in Central California. Is this a real place or did you base it on a specific internment camp? What research did you do on your setting and Japanese Americans’ experiences in these camps?

Manzanar is a real place. It was an internment camp during World War II, and today it is a national
historic site. You can visit Manzanar’s museum and walk the grounds. Most of the old buildings have been torn down, but monuments and artifacts remain. There is also a wonderful online museum ( where you can learn more about the internment camps in general, and Manzanar specifically.

In addition to the Manzanar museum, I watched interviews with former internees on That site has an archive with hundreds of interviews, in addition to other artifacts. It is free and available to the public (

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community’s website ( was a good resource as well. What I learned there was particularly important in the first chapter of PAPER WISHES which is set on Bainbridge Island.

4. Sounds like you did some extensive research. I read you had a dog growing up, and
Manami’s personal growth revolves around her guilt about her dog. Did you draw on your own experiences in developing this part of your story?

I had several dogs growing up, but PAPER WISHES is dedicated to one in particular—Strider, an Australian shepherd mix. He was such a good dog! He walked me and my brother to our bus stop every morning and was waiting there for us when the bus brought us home. The loss of Strider is still painful, decades later.

5. Sorry it's a painful memory. You’ve also written 10 nonfiction books. What made you decide to write a historical fiction story? Do you have a preference now on staying with fiction or nonfiction books?

I enjoy writing nonfiction because I love to geek out on history and science research. But I’ve always written fiction—and as a reader, I gravitate toward historical fiction. So I suppose it makes perfect sense that I would write historical fiction.

Because my writing time is limited, I tend to focus on fiction these days. But I’m always on the lookout for a nonfiction topic that I’m super excited to research.

6. Your agent is Kathleen Rushall. Share how she became your agent and your road to getting this book published and your nonfiction ones too.

When I queried Kathleen, I knew that she was an animal lover. After we spoke, I learned that she was also a big-hearted, loving person. Add to that how much she loved PAPER WISHES, and it’s no surprise that we were destined to work together. I’m sensitive to other people’s emotions, so it’s important that I am surrounded by kind people. Kathleen is one of the kindest.

I queried her, following her guidelines, on a Sunday night. Monday morning, she emailed me, requesting the rest of the manuscript. Later that day, she emailed again to say she read it, loved it, and wanted to talk. I had queried three other agents, so there was a bit of a waiting period before I signed with her. Kathleen asked me to change a couple of things in the manuscript, and then she sent it out on submission. It sold within a couple of months. So, all in all, it was a gentle, easy path.

7. That's so cool you knew you had a connection as animal lovers. How are planning to promote this book? Is your strategy different than your nonfiction books?

I’ll be honest, promotion is not my thing. I don’t do any promotion whatsoever for my nonfiction books—I leave it completely to the publishers.

With PAPER WISHES, I have done a bit more—including interviews like this one. :) I’ll also be doing book signings for the first time. I’m scheduled to be on a few panels at book festivals and conferences in 2016, too.

I don’t blog, but I’m on social media—Twitter and Facebook, although Facebook is mainly for my friends and family.

8. I wouldn't love the promotion either. What has surprised you about being a debut MG fiction writer?

I knew I was introverted and shy before becoming a debut author, but I didn’t realize HOW introverted and shy I am. Coming to terms with social anxiety has been a challenge for me, but I have help—a supportive partner, loving parents, and a therapist. I try to limit the time I spend away from my kids—being with them, hugging, holding hands, and so on, soothes me.

I’m blessed to be part of the generous kid lit community. My critique partners, my SCBWI Midsouth friends, fellow Sweet 16s and Class of 2K16 debut authors have welcomed me into their warm circle. The support of other writers is something I cherish.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a couple of other MG novels with a similar setting as PAPER WISHES. They are a bit different, but share themes—loss and love and family.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lois. You can find Lois at

Lois  has generously offered an ARC of PAPER WISHES for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through January 30thIf your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. The is for U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other participating bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by Gregory Funaro and a giveaway of  one book in his MG fantasy Alistair Grim’s Odditorium series. 

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Sarah Ahiers and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Assassin's Heart.

Wednesday that week I have my new and first agent spotlight with agent Beth Campbell and a query critique giveaway.

Friday that week I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

Hope to see you on Monday! 


  1. Wonderful interview! My copy should be arriving ths week and I can't wait! Congrats Lois!

  2. This book sounds beautiful and heartbreaking, and now I really want to read it. I remember learning a bunch about Japanese internment camps and just getting so angry that my own government would do that to people. I really hope America never falls back into the cycle of fear and cruelty again.

    And congratulations on your MG debut, Lois! I'm so glad you didn't have to struggle too long in the querying and submission trenches. :)

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Great interview, and it makes me so happy to see more stories about the Japanese-American internment - a really important part of history! Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata is another great book I read many years ago which is also about the internment (pretty different storyline and different setting though), if anyone's curious.

    1. Yes, I love Weedflower, too--really, anything Cynthia Kadohata writes. :)

  4. Some authors struggle when switching from non-fiction to fiction.

    Sad part about our history, but I'm sure we weren't the only ones who did that.

    1. You're right--it did happen elsewhere, too.

  5. Natalie, thanks for the intro to Lois! This sounds like a great story. Reminds me of a book I read when growing up (Farewell to Manzanar, I think?). As a kid, I had no idea what had happened there and it helped me understand it. This sounds like it will offer great historical, etc. insight for readers today. Congrats, Lois!

    I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a great week!

  6. Lois has such a great story from idea to the bookshelf. The results sound fantastic. I've added this one to my list of books to read this year. Thanks for the review.

  7. I love historical fiction. This is one subject I know very little about and would enjoy reading! Congratulations Lois.

  8. I love historical fiction. This is one subject I know very little about and would enjoy reading! Congratulations Lois.

  9. Wonderful interview. I've read other books about Manzanar, and each of them fills me with sadness for the families and so much respect for the dignity with which they endured that experience. I worry, too, about some of the current rhetoric about refugees and hope compassion triumphs over fear-mongering. This sounds like a wonderful book for kids and adults alike. Congratulations to Lois on the agent she connected with. I met Kathleen Rushall at the SCBWI NorCal Spring Spirit Conference last year and was very impressed with her.

  10. I love how she said her path to publication (middle grade fiction) was a gentle one and easy one, when truly there was more work behind that success considering she'd been writing for quite a while.
    Thanks for a chance at winning the ARC.

  11. What a super story about how she came to publish this. The story already has my heart. I'd love to win an ARC.

  12. I've heard so many good things about this book. And that time period in our nation's history has fascinated me since I read Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and also Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. The internment camps were a great injustice to Japanese-Americans. Let's hope we as a nation learned our lesson from that.

    I'd love to read this book. I tweeted:

  13. Sounds like an amazing book. I've read several in similar settings so I know I'd like this one.

  14. Sounds like a lovely book, Lois. Please to meet you, and congrats!

  15. I've not seen this one yet, but have read Dash and Dust of Eden before which are from a similar time period. I always appreciate a book that is so well researched and it sounds like she defiantly put in sometime making this historically accurate. Thanks for the opportunity Natalie and have a lovely week.

  16. Pets are family members too. I got depressed when my hamster died last year and our Yorkie of fifteen years before that. Best wishes to Lois Sepahba and Paper Wishes!.

  17. You picked just the right author to query!
    I don't do many physical appearances, but I do try to get the jump on online stops. Awesome you will be on some panels this year.

  18. What a wonderful interview! This is a book that I'm really, really looking forward to (and have been ever since I heard about it). Thank you for the giveaway!

  19. Yay - a diverse MG! Great interview, as always. It sounds like a wonderful read! Thanks for the chance! (I followed via email xinyi1467 at gmail.)

  20. I can't imagine having to leave my dog behind; that would be awful! So glad you had an easy path to getting your book published!

  21. Congratulations to Lois! The story sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

  22. This book sounds great and is about an important time in history. Thanks for the post and the giveaway!

  23. I would love to read this book. Many of my friends' families were interned, so this topic really touches me. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

  24. Thanks for the review and interview. Very interesting. I will pass on the giveaway. I am buried in books right now.

  25. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and story behind the story. Lynne Marie,

  26. I really enjoyed hearing about your background as a writer and the background of PAPER WISHES, Lois. It sounds like a very special book. If you do any promo in Lexington, please let me know, and I'll try to come. I tweeted about this interview and giveaway. Best wishes to you, Ev

    1. Thank you so mic, Ev! I do have an event coming up in Lexington--at the Morris Book Shop on February 13 at 3:00. I'd love to meet you there! :)

    2. I appreciate your letting me know, Lois. I'll try to be there. It's on my calendar now. And I'm SO excited that I won the ARC!! Thank you to you and Natalie.

  27. I love the idea behind this book and cn already feel for this girl. Thanks for the chance to win and for posting today! I shared on tumblr:

  28. The book sounds terrific. I would love to win the ARC! Thank you for the opportunity.

  29. Any books about interment camps kill me. My heart breaks for anyone who's gone through that kind of experience.

  30. Any books about interment camps kill me. My heart breaks for anyone who's gone through that kind of experience.

  31. This book sounds amazing! I can't wait to read it with my 9 year old!

  32. A very poignant-sounding story. Hope you sell oodles, Lois!

    Happy Wednesday to you Natalie.

  33. Congratulations, Lois! I live in the PNW, one of the areas where Japanese internment took place with people taken first to the Washington State Fairgrounds and kept in barns for animals and then shipped off to Manzanar and someplace in Eastern Washington. It was a terrible tragedy and sadly, something that was glossed over for far too many years.
    Best wishes with your novel!

    1. Thank you, Tyrean! Growing up near one of the prison camps had an impact on me, too--I hope more people learn about these stories.

  34. Fantastic interview! Congrats, Lois! I'm hoping we never go back to the days of internment camps. It's sad to think of a family having to move to one, but losing a pet because of it somehow makes it even worse.

  35. This sounds like a wonderful book. I grew up in Washington, so I love that the first chapter is set there. I really related to what you said about being an introvert--me too! Congrats, Lois! I can't wait to read this one.

  36. Congrats on your first book! I'm looking forward to reading it and sharing it with my students.

  37. Paper Wishes sounds like a very interesting book. I loved hearing about Lois and her background. It can be stressful doing speaking engagements, so I can understand what she has had to overcome. Wishing her the best of luck and thanks for the chance to win a copy. :)

  38. This is such a great interview.

  39. Powerful story! Congratulations on your book.

  40. I'm really looking forward to reading this. Great interview!