Here are my current Giveaway Contests

When You and I Collide through July 24th

Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop through July 31st

The Verdigris Pawn through July 31st

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

Mary Cummings Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/21/2021

Allison Hellegers Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/26/2021

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 Wednesday Everyone! Before I get to my interview with debut author Leah Henderson, I've got my IWSG post for you.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

Today's Question: Did you ever say "I quit?" And if so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I have never quit writing since I started, but I have had to put my writing on hold for six months or longer many times during approximately 15 years that I have been writing. My demanding job as an attorney, being a caregiver to my husband, being an almost single mom to my daughter, volunteer activities, and this blog have taken all my time and then some many times over the year. There was no choice because I was functioning on 5-6 hours sleep a day and being productive most of the rest of the time.

Now that I am a full-time writer for my job, my creative writing is on hold again. I love writing and the writer's life. But I'm trying to support my daughter and me with this job, so I have to take on more work if I can get it versus writing for myself. Plus this blog is a huge time commitment. And I have to balance on my writing with spending enough time with people, and I have a boyfriend and new life. So writing for me is on hold for now. What about you? Have you had to put your writing on hold or quit?

Today I’m excited to have debut author Leah Henderson here to share about her MG contemporary ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, which is set in Senegal. It sounds like a fantastic story about a boy trying to keep his family together in a world that offers him hard choices. I was so excited about this book that I forgot that I had invited Leah to be on the blog and accidentally invited her on a second time.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined.

With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom in all their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own?

One Shadow on the Wall is about love and loss, family and friendship, and creating your own future—even if it’s hard to do.

Hi Leah! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

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

So I am probably what you would call a wandering, curious soul. I have always loved traveling and learning. And my family has always been big on exploring. I am happiest when I am getting lost then found somewhere in the world. I love meeting people and hearing their stories and figuring out that special something that makes them unique.

Tales of little-known places or the people who passed through them have always drawn me in and made me wonder and imagine. When I was younger, those were the stories that got me thinking about writing. I knew there were so many more layers to the people and places I was hearing about. I wanted to see their lives before and after their notable adventures. So I started creating my own possibilities for their stories. Then I quickly turned to envisioning my own protagonists on their own journeys. And that is how my love of writing began.

2. That's great how you have tapped into your love of traveling when creating stories. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I was traveling in Senegal, a place full of heart and vibrancy, and I saw a boy sitting on a beach wall.
It was only for a moment, but something about him drew me in, and I asked myself the question: what is his day like? The image of that boy stayed with me throughout the day. Later when I saw him again, I couldn’t help but write a short story (intended only for me) in answer to the question I’d asked myself earlier. I never imagined that string of words would turn into anything more.

3. So amazing how a split second of seeing this boy was the seed for your book. Learning about Senegal intrigues me, and reviews have said that you did a really good job portraying the culture. I know you visited Senegal and have read that travel plays a big part of your writing in general. Did you rely on your visit to Senegal to get the culture and setting right or also research the area?

I did everything I could possibly do to learn more about the culture. I read about it, watched local movies (for mannerisms and gestures) and observed and embraced everything I could while I was there and after. But the most important thing I did to heighten my understanding was to ask questions of people who knew this country best. I talked to professors, scholars, Senegalese friends, and foreigners who have made Senegal their home. I tried to absorb all I learned (notebooks full of notes) to create this fictional, but in many ways, true-to-life world.

4. Wow! You certainly were dedicated watching local movies. What advice do you have for other authors trying to writing about a different culture and country?

In my case, I had to first acknowledge that I knew very little. That my assumptions of a place I had only visited a handful of times and the people I interacted with there were not enough to tell an accurate story. I needed to read, watch, and do research. Whether you are fortunate enough to travel to the place you are writing about, or are reading books, watching films, or documentaries (by people of that culture & you have to do more research than you think you will ever need. Even then you may want to do more. But as I said, the most important thing after that is having people you can ask questions of and pass ideas by to make sure you are depicting that culture, its belief systems, and everyday interactions accurately. And if you are not willing or able to do these things then I think you truly need to ask yourself—should I be the one to try and tell this story?

5. The stakes are really high for Mor to keep his promise to his dad to protect his sisters or join the gang from the nearby village. Did the plot come to you from the start or did it develop as you wrote and revised your story?

Pieces of the plot came to me at the very beginning, but I didn’t know to what extent certain things would unfold until I had written a few drafts.

6. What was a challenge you faced in writing ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL and how did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge in writing this novel was believing that I could. I worried that I didn’t know enough. And even after a ton of research, I was still extremely apprehension. Far too many times I had witnessed authors writing about another culture doing harm, and I did not want to be responsible for more.

In terms of overcoming it, my father reminded me that this was an opportunity for kids like Mor to see themselves on the page, an opportunity that might not come around again so soon. Then he asked me a question: Was I really going to deny them this chance?

After that, my excuses were just that—excuses. I had to try. Remembering my own childhood frustrations of not seeing myself fully represented in stories, I was not going to be a barrier to this opportunity or any of its possibilities for them.

7. Awesome how your dad's encouragement kept you going. What was your road to publication like?

As I mentioned, this book came out of a short story (never meant to go beyond ten pages) but one of my grad school professors thought it could be the beginnings of a novel. She encouraged me to flush it out. Then another professor wanted to see ‘more of Mor’ as well. And when I finally graduated and thought I could put it aside for a while, someone else crossed my path and asked what was going to happen to Mor. At the time, I was still hesitant about the work (my father hadn’t imparted his words of wisdom yet ๐Ÿ˜Š. I told her Mor would be resting for a long, long time. She thought that was a mistake.

With her advice and more encouragement, I finished a draft. Then I did a series of revisions until it was ready to send out. Of course I was still a bit reluctant to send it, but I did. And after a few rejections, I did decide to place it in a drawer for a while. I wasn’t completely discouraged though. One of the rejection letters I had received was very thoughtful, and, in a way, encouraged me to keep writing. So I did. I started a new manuscript. Then about nine months later, I crossed paths with the agent who had been so encouraging and they wanted to see Mor’s story again. From there things went pretty quickly. I signed with them. We did a few quick tweaks. Sent the manuscript out to a select list of editors (including one who had requested it) and I was fortunate to receive happy news shortly after. It took a lot of time and work to get to that point, but I needed to go through every second of it. I am so grateful to those who kept me writing this story. Without them it might not have ever come out of the drawer again.

8. So cool how your paths crossed with your agent. What was something that surprised you about working with your editor?

I know we all hope our editors will truly understand what we mean to do when we write drafts of our stories, and I was relieved and a little surprised at how well my editors understood what I wanted to convey even when I wasn’t quite there yet. They each asked the perfect questions to get me to the next layer of story.

9. What advice do you have for other debut authors in working with their editors?

Be open to receiving all the advice your editor has to share. That doesn’t mean you always have to agree, but it does mean you should think about it, and ask yourself if it will make your story stronger and if it keeps to the tone you are striving for. If so, welcome the advice, make it your own, and watch your story grow because of it.

10. How are you planning to market your book?

This is such a tough question. There are so many things that people recommend doing. It can be overwhelming, but you really have to figure out what is comfortable for you (and I’m still trying to figure that out). But one thing that has been invaluable for me is joining a debut author group. I have met some wonderful people taking similar journeys to mine. They also have similar apprehensions, worries, and questions. But more importantly, we get to celebrate each other’s successes, trade ideas, and figure this all out together.

11. I think figuring out the marketing aspect of writing is a struggle for many writers. What are you working on now?

At the moment I am working on two MG novels that are very different from ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL in many ways, but that are also similar in the themes of family, friendship, and finding your possibilities.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Leah.

Thank you so much for asking me (twice). I was flattered and have really enjoyed this!

Ha! Ha! You can find Leah at:

witter: @LeahsMark
Instagram: Leahs_Mark 

Leah has generously offered ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through June 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, June 12th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Bibi Lewis and a query critique giveaway

Monday, June 19th I have a guest post with debut author Kayla Olson and possibly her agent with a giveaway of her YA science fiction THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE

Wednesday, June 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Van Sant and a query critique giveaway--my last until the fall

Monday, June 26th I have a guest post with debut author Emily Bain Murphy and her agent Peter Knapp with a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES and a query critique giveaway by Peter--my last joint agent/author post until the fall

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS

Hope to see you on Monday!


  1. Sounds like a fantastic book! I heart MG:) Goodness, you've got a lot on your plate for an author!! Hope you are having a relaxing summer.

    1. Thank you! I heart MG as well. The summer should be fun.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing her interview that provides much better information about her that I did not know before.
    Dissertation writing service

  3. Life is life and sometimes the writing has to take a back seat.

    Congrats Leah! Your book sounds amazing and pertinent to today. I love that it was inspired by one boy sitting on a wall. You never know when inspiration will hit. You just have to always be open to it.

    1. Absolutely! Inspiration is such a magical thing.

  4. Oooo, a boyfriend! Good for you. I'd absolutely LOVE to read your book Leah. Anything set is a unique/unusual setting is a lure for me. Learning about the research you did and the spark that ignited the fire, inspiring.

    I've tweeted about the giveaway.

    1. Thank you, that was kind of you. I hope you will enjoy it if you do have the opportunity to read it.

  5. Yay, Leah! It sounds like a book with all the feels. =)

    Natalie, I'm right there with you. We juggle and hope to pursue our dreams while dealing with the realities of today, eh?

  6. Natalie, sounds like you've set a schedule that is working for you in terms of your writing/family/work time. I enjoyed reading about the seed that sparked One Shadow On The Wall and all the research that Leah did to get the details so accurate was impressive. Congrats on its release.

  7. Congratulations to Leah! It's wonderful how just the sight of the boy on the wall inspired a book. :) And I'm amazed with all you do, Natalie.

  8. One moment sparked the idea for the book - amazing.
    Between the IWSG, blogging, and my real life, I have a lot going on, so writing is on hold often.

    1. Yep, that minute of my life has filled my brain for years!

  9. Natalie, you do so much: work, took care of your hubby, managed this blog, took your daughter to swimming etc, and you also write books. For me you were and you are an inspiration.

    One Shadow on the wall sounds amazing, I love the book cover and the premise is wonderful.

  10. Congrats, Leah! I'm so, so excited to read this.

    1. Thanks, Jen! Looking forward to yours as well.

  11. Congrats to Leah! She has such a fetching smile and her book sounds magical.

    Yes, I've had to put writing on hold. Had to go back to work over a year ago. Recently, I changed jobs. A shake up in schedule means putting writing on hold sometimes. Sometimes I need down time. Sometimes I need time with the husband. But I try to spend at least 10 mins a day on it.

    I'm glad you found a new life. That's awesome news. Hugs to you, Natalie.

  12. I'm where you are with my writing, although I do try to work in at least 250 words or so a day when I'm not stalled, waiting to hear back on something I've submitted. The writing that pays the bills often wins. Books CAN pay SOME of the bills, but it's not steady.

  13. Natalie, Your professional writing time is well spent, and your daughter is lucky to have you. Now you deserve some fun, and I hope you're able to spend time on that too.

    Congrats to Leah!


  14. DLP has put a lot of my writing on hold. But there is now a lull before the next book release so I might get a chance.

  15. Sometimes life demands a pause from from writing. Your new life sounds like a blessing.

    Leah, I absolutely LOVE the cover of your book and it sounds wonderful (and I love how it started with a single glimpse of a boy).

  16. Being an attorney sure is a demanding job on top of writing.

  17. Hi Natalie. Sometimes life prohibits writing, but those experiences deepen our writing when we return. Your family comes first.

  18. Natalie - I think we all need breaks sometimes - for several months or however long it takes to get back. I agree with Denise on how those experiences work into our writing upon return.
    Mor's story sounds fascinating and I love the tips on research. I've been worried about my current WIP because I want to include an MC with a different cultural background than my own and I want to do it well - respectfully and healthily.

    1. I completely understand the worry. Besides doing your research it is so vital to have people from that cultural experience read your work, because you never know what you might miss-big or small (even when being so careful). Best of luck!

  19. Wow, it sounds like you have a lot to fit in besides writing. I love the interview, in particular the editing advice. :)

  20. This sounds INCREDIBLE. Can't wait to read!
    I tweeted about it too:
    I'm @HMCWrites
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Thank you so much for spreading the word. I truly appreciate it!

  21. I totally get the writing needs to wait when life gets super full. But for me, I find I still "write " in my head. For instance, I'll explore characters that I have started writing while sitting in traffic. Or listen to the unique speech of people around me and wonder how I could use it. So, I'm curious if you think your writing is really on hold for you or are you mentally writing without a tangible word count? ๐Ÿ˜„

    Leah, your book sounds amazing. It's now on my reading list. I appreciate the respect you demonstrate with all the research. Sounds like the story picked a good author for itself. Lol.

    1. Thank you so much. That is so sweet of you to say! I hope I did okay. ☺️

  22. Congrats on your novel, Leah! Funny that you accidentally invited her twice to be on the blog, Natalie. :)

  23. Wonderful interview. Congratulations to Leah.
    Having a job and being a caregiver sure keeps you busy. Wishing you all the best.

  24. Hmm, so I zeroed in on the boyfriend part. Good for you in getting back out there! And I know we all struggle with the time issue so I hope you can find time to write. I know I get antsy when I don't.

    Congratulations to Leah! The book sounds really good and I wish her much success!

  25. I have put things on hold with my writing from time to time. Sometimes other things in life have to come first. Being a mother, working, looking after a loved one have all been factors. Wishing Leah lots of luck with her new book.

  26. I'd love to win a copy

  27. Hi, Natalie,

    I have certainly put writing on hold and am still doing so. Every now and then I will query but that is it, No NEW WRITING. It's been a long time for me. I want to, but something seems to be holding me back. One day soon I hope.

    What a FASCINATING story. Thank you for sharing Leah's story with us. I think it's super important for all children to learn about other cultures. The more they read about them, the less prejudice in the world.

    CONGRATS LEAH! This is one MG I would certainly like to read.

  28. Leah's book sounds amazing! I'm so glad she got over her apprehension about not knowing enough to write it. We need more MG stories like this!

    And, Natalie, it sounds like you have the right priorities with your writing. I've had to put my writing on hold many times because of family or work. Putting it on hold is not the same as quitting. It will still be there for you when you can return to it.

  29. What a wonderful looking book. Thanks so much for the interview, it adds an extra dimension to the book for me. I'd be honored to win a copy.
    I follow your blog by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    +1 entry - I also tweeted a link to this post:

  30. I'm very impressed by the level of research that went into Leah's book and also interested to hear about its inspiration. Great interview!

  31. I really understand about putting writing on hold. It's really hard to get back to it sometimes. Thanks for an enlightening interview. The book sounds fascinating. Please let someone else win. I am buried in books.

  32. Life can be so incredibly busy. It's hard to imagine NOT having to put our writing dreams on pause at times!

  33. This sounds like an awesome book and I would LOVE to win a copy! Congratulations to Leah :)

  34. I love your dad's support of you and your writing! He had an excellent point and I'm so happy you wrote on! Congrats on your book. I shared on my tumblr:

    1. Thank you! And yes, he is a truly special dad. ☺️

  35. If the giveaway is international, then I'd love a chance to win. So wonderful that Leah's father gave such great advice. Congrats on your book girl!

    1. Thank you, my dear! And yes, it is international. Wouldn't have it any other way. ☺️

  36. Sounds like a fascinating story with a strong conflict and I don't know anything about Senegal. I'd love a chance to win a copy.

    tamara (dot) narayan (at) gmail (dot) com

  37. What an interesting interview. Congratulations to Leah. Dad's are wonderful.

  38. Congrats to Leah on her first published book—that’s so exciting! I love what she says about traveling, as I leave a piece of my heart in every place I visit.

    Natalie—that’s great that you’ve been able to take the long view, and never lose sight of your writing dream over the years. Your post really resonated with me, and I can sympathize with how hard it is to muster the mental energy for creative writing when you’ve spent all day writing for someone else. I know what it’s like to lose out on sleep because there are too many other demands on my time, and until recently I too went through periods where life left no room for writing.

    You’ll get through this too. *hugs* Life has a funny way of providing opportunities to realize our dreams. I hope in the middle of your busy schedule you can take some time to be alone and treat yourself.

    1. heart grows with every place I go!

  39. Sometimes, we just aren't ready to be writers. Life is life.

    Congrats to Leah for her very cool new book!

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. She sounds amazing as does her book!

  42. Congrats to Leah! Sounds like a wonderful book. It was fascinating learning about the research she did. Wishing her the best of luck! I would love to win a copy. :) Thanks!

    So happy for you that you are getting to write full time. It can be hard to put our writing to the side while we take care of the rest of our lives. :)

  43. So intriguing that ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL started as a short story. I'm dying to read this book! Planning to buy my own copy, though, so let someone else win this. Leah is such a beautiful person, so much fun to talk to, and she has the most gorgeous, infectious laugh (we met at a Highlights workshop last year). I know her book will be inspiring.

    1. Thank you so much, Joanne! I truly hope you enjoy it!

  44. Congratulations to Leah on her new book!

    I haven't ever quit writing but have definitely taken breaks from it.