Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New book coming out in August!

I have a new book coming out in August! The Campaign is my eighth book, my second middle grade, and my first book with interior illustrations. It’s available for pre-order now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

A hilarious and timely political comedy—like Veep for tweens—about a twelve-year-old who runs her babysitter’s campaign for mayor

If you ask Maddie Polansky, the only good part of middle school is art class. It’s definitely not the other kids, who think she’s weird, or the teachers, who think she’s a troublemaker. And though she’s never paid much attention to politics, when she learns that the front-runner for city mayor plans to cut funding for the arts, she knows she has to do something to stop Lucinda Burghart, art-hating bad guy! She can’t run for mayor herself—she’s just a kid. But she can get her babysitter, Janet, to run against Lucinda.

Soon, Maddie is thrust into the role of Janet’s campaign manager, leading not only to humor and hijinks but to an inspiring story about activism and what it takes to become an engaged citizen. As she leads the campaign from rallies to debates to Election Day, Maddie discovers that she has more of a community than she’d ever imagined—and that sometimes a “troublemaker” is exactly what this world needs.

“The Campaign is exactly the story we need right now. A fun middle grade tale celebrating both why… and how… we should be involved in our government.”—Jon Scieszka, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

“A hilarious, inspiring story which proves that kids have the vision and the power to change the world.”—Max Brallier, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth series

Have you guys heard about podcasts? I’m on one!

I had a great conversation with my old Penguin colleague Giuseppe Castellano for his podcast, The Illustration Department. You can give it a listen here.

I talk about things like how amazing the other editors at Viking are, and what it was like for me to work on Viola Davis’s first picture book, and what editors actually do all day, and why authors need agents, and what I think about cancel culture, and why people (like, as a species) are so bad at apologizing.

Do I say the word “um” too much? YES! But do I also say some smart things about publishing and culture? YOU TELL ME!

Here’s that link again:

Holiday gift ideas for writers and readers

If you’re looking for a holiday gift for a writer (or reader) in your life, try one of these ideas!

If you live near Austin, Texas…
Delight your favorite writer with a ticket to my workshop at the Writing Barn on the Logic of Storytelling. This is a craft-focused class that gives writers a tool set to address common narrative problems in any project. Note that there is a cap on the number of students allowed in this class.

If you live anywhere in the United States…
Email me proof that you bought a copy of one of my books (a receipt or shipping confirmation), and I’ll mail you a personalized bookplate, signed and addressed to your recipient of choice. Getting one of these signed book plates is totally free. All you need to do is, at some point before December 31, email me at with proof of purchase, mailing address, and name of the person you’re giving my book to.

If you live anywhere in the world…
I’m teaching a three-hour online course on What Writers Need to Know About the Publishing Business. I’ll be explaining into the business side of being a writer: how to understand contracts and royalty statements, how to foster positive relationships with editors and publicists, what is expected from you at each stage of the publishing process, etc. This online class is run through the Writers League of Texas but is available to writers anywhere. Note that there is a cap on the number of students allowed in this class (and last time I offered it, it did sell out).

Finally, I’m offering a limited number of manuscript critiques this holiday season, exclusively for writers of children’s and young adult manuscripts. If you want to give one of these critiques, contact me at Each critique is for up to 3,000 words (roughly 10 manuscript pages) and is priced at $80. If you purchase a manuscript critique, I’ll send you a printable gift certificate so that your loved one has something exciting to unwrap on the holiday! If you want any more information on my editorial work so you can decide whether this is a good gift for the writer in your life, check out my editorial website, the Book Engineer.

I hope these suggestions make your holiday gift giving a little bit easier, and I hope your writer friends and family members love receiving them!

school visits

One of my goals for this new school year is to do more school visits. To help make that happen, I’ve created this Leila Sales school visit flyer. Click on it, let me know what you think, and maybe invite me to visit your school (or your kids’ school, or your former school, or just sic me on a stranger’s school, whatever). I’m living in Austin, Texas; I’m frequently in NYC; my family is in Boston; and I love to travel so if you have students who don’t live in any of those places, it’s not too much of a hard sell to get me to come to wherever you are.

Hope to see some of you over the course of this school year!

Links for you

Do you need some things to read on the internet so you don’t have to go address your to-do list? Great — here are some things for you to read!

Firstly, I wrote up a list of seven strategies to keep online bullying out of your life for the website SheKnows. These are all techniques that I worked out while I was writing If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, and they are valuable for all of us (even if you don’t think of yourself as ever participating in social media tear-downs).

On a lighter note, I wrote a mostly-fictional humor essay for Points in Case called “As a Writer, I Am the Most Important Person in This Relationship and on Earth.” It is definitely, not even a little bit, no way, based on me.

Also, if you want to read any interviews with me about If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, you can do that! I had really in-depth conversations with the Mary Sue and North of the Internet about public shaming, social justice, and saying the wrong things online. If you read these interviews and have your own responses, let me know — I’d love to discuss these issues with you, too.

I have a new book out on May 1!

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say comes out on May 1, and I am so incredibly excited to share it with you all. Here’s the description:

Before we go any further, I want you to understand this: I am not a good person.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. But what happens when we’re seen and heard saying or doing the wrong things? What then?

When Winter Halperin–former spelling bee champion, aspiring writer, and daughter of a parenting expert–gets caught saying the wrong thing online, her life explodes. All across the world, people knows what she’s done, and none of them will forgive her.

With her friends gone, her future plans cut short, and her identity in shambles, Winter is just trying to pick up the pieces without hurting anyone else. She knows she messed up, but does that mean it’s okay for people to send her hate mail and death threats? Does she deserve to lose all that she’s lost? And is “I’m sorry” ever good enough?

First and foremost a novel about public shaming in the internet age, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say is also an exploration of the power of words, the cumulative destructiveness of microaggressions, and the pressing need for empathy.

I’ll be doing launch events in the spring, so keep an eye on my Events page for my details about those. I hope you love this book!

Call for Scav Hunt Essay Submissions

If you’ve ever talked to me for longer than ten minutes, you’ve probably discovered that I’ve spent years involved in the University of Chicago’s Scav Hunt, that it is one of my favorite things in the world, and that I can talk about it endlessly. So, after nearly 15 years of being involved in Scav, it brings me so much joy to announce that I am going to be editing a collection of Scav Hunt stories, to be published by the University of Chicago Press in the spring of 2019. And we are now open for submissions! So if you’re a U of C alum with a Scav story to tell, read on…

You are invited to send in your 500 – 2,500-word personal essay on the topic of “My Craziest and Most Memorable Scav Hunt Experience.” All stories must be true. Each essay should be focused on one particular item or event, and should include the year and item number. So we’re not looking for general philosophical musings on Scav, or the history of Scav, but rather concrete stories about cool things you’ve done–the sorts of stories you would tell friends to try to explain to them how amazing Scav is.

I will be selecting about 25 essays for the book, and I’ll be looking for a wide range of experiences (road trips, showcase items, small personal labors of love, etc.) and a wide range of years.

Please submit all essays to no later than July 15, 2017. If your essay is selected for the book, I will send you editorial feedback and request some revisions in the fall. No Scav points, but if your essay gets included in the book, you’ll get paid $175 capitalism points for your contribution. Plus you’ll have your name in a book about Scav, which is priceless.

Let me know if you have any questions, and please share this call for submissions with all your Scav friends!

xo Judge Leila

Desert Island Discs

I’m trying to put together a list of my Desert Island Discs (i.e. the albums I’d want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert island indefinitely). I have never come up with a final and complete list, and I’m certainly not going to do so tonight, but here’s what I’ve got at present:

Graceland, by Paul Simon
Tapestry, by Carole King
Yourself or Someone Like You, by matchbox twenty
The Stone Roses, by the Stone Roses
If You’re Feeling Sinister, by Belle & Sebastian
The “Chirping” Crickets, by Buddy Holly and the Crickets

Okay I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to lock myself into any choices I might regret later. TO BE CONTINUED, MAYBE.

How to Win at New Years Resolutions

I am a big believer in New Years resolutions. I am also into birthday resolutions, Rosh Hashana resolutions, and summer resolutions: basically I will take any opportunity to try to be a better person.

For 2008 I resolved to get more sleep. For 2009 I resolved to make my writing more of a priority. For 2011 I resolved to get in shape. For 2012 I resolved to be more charitable. For 2013 I resolved to cook for myself. For 2014 I resolved to do something about my anxiety. Not only did I take steps toward all these goals in the years that I resolved them, but I have continued to work on all of them ever since then.

A successful self-improvement regimen takes discipline and willpower, but it also requires a smart approach. Here’s what I think about when crafting resolutions:

1) Operationalize it. This is my best piece of advice and I am very serious about it. Always ask yourself HOW? HOW am I going to achieve this goal? What is my PLAN for putting it into action? It’s all well and good to say “I’m going to be more productive at work” or “I’m going to be more respectful to my parents.” But those are not good plans, they are merely good intentions. And the minute your focus wavers, your intentions get away from you. You need to create measurable, achievable steps. I didn’t say, “I’m going to get more sleep”: I said, “I’m setting an alarm for 11:30pm every night and when it goes off, I will drop whatever I am doing and go to bed.” I didn’t say, “I’m going to prioritize my writing”: I said, “I’m going to set aside one night every week to come straight home from work and write.” Every day, or every week, I could look back over it and see whether I had done my plan or not.

2) Be realistic. If every meal you currently eat is takeout, or crackers and peanut butter, or Annie’s mac and cheese, you are not overnight going to turn into a person who cooks for yourself seven nights a week. And if you resolve to turn into that person, you will find it impossible, and you will feel overwhelmed and give up. Set a goal you are capable of achieving so that you don’t set yourself up for failure and quitting. For my “cooking for myself” resolution, I created a google doc listing meals I’d cooked, and my goal was to add to the list at least twice a month, so by the end of the year I’d have 25 meals I had made. Maybe I ate cereal for the other 340 days that year, but it was a start–and it gave me the foundation to do even better the next year.

3) There’s no time limit on becoming the person you want to be. If you don’t actually join that gym in January, do it in February. If February gets away from you, do it in March. I didn’t get around to my 2014 resolution until October, because at that point I was like, “Shit, this year is almost over, and I haven’t yet fulfilled the promise I made to myself.” So I did it then, still got it in before 2015: it still counts.

4) Prioritize yourself. A commitment that you make to yourself is every bit as meaningful and binding as a commitment you make to someone else. You wouldn’t cancel dinner plans with a friend because at the last minute you were kind of tired and didn’t really feel like going out in the rain, so you sure as hell can’t cancel on your own plans to go to the gym or write 500 words. To make it easier to hold yourself to your promises, make a list of every time you do the thing you’re supposed to do, or a calendar where you give yourself a star sticker for every day you do it. In 2012 I made a list of every month of the year and then wrote in which charity I donated to each time. I put an appointment in my calendar for each month: “Give to April charity.” An appointment is a real thing, and you can’t ignore it–even if the appointment is with no one but yourself.

5) Doing something is better than doing nothing. Every soda you don’t drink, every cigarette you don’t smoke, every day you do go for a run, every email you do respond to quickly–give yourself credit for every one of those. Yes, there will still be the soda you DID drink, the day you DIDN’T go for a run, the email that’s been languishing in your inbox for four months, but so what? It’s fine if you don’t get all the way to the person you want to be. All that matters is that you’re taking steps in that direction.

That’s basically it. At the end of the day: have a plan. Put it in your calendar. Do what your calendar tells you to do. Trust the strategies you laid out for yourself more than you listen to whatever it is you “feel like” doing when the actual moment comes. 2016, let’s do this.

Read an excerpt from Once Was a Time now!

My first middle-grade novel is coming out with Chronicle Books on April 5, 2016. It’s called Once Was a Time, and here is what it looks like:

Omce Was a Time cover

Newbery Award winner Katherine Applegate called it “unforgettable.” Anne Ursu called it “boundary-breaking and timeless.” Courtney Sheinmel called it “elegant and heartwrenching.”

Are you thinking, “I don’t want to wait until April to start what sounds like such an amazing book”? Well, now you don’t have to. The first few chapters are available for you to read right here.

You may have to wait until April to find out how it all ends. But you can find out how it all begins right now.

Happy holidays and much love,