Catherine Linka is the author of the A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS duology . Her forthcoming novel WHAT I WANT YOU TO SEE will be published by Disney Hyperion in Fall 2019. Catherine was a YA book buyer for an indie bookstore for 8 years. Connect with her on twitter @cblinka or FB.

Debut author, Caroline Carlson will join the Tollbooth crew starting in January. This month, we welcome her to the Tollbooth and ask her a few questions on behalf of our readers. 

The first book in Caroline Carlson’s middle grade, pirate fantasy trilogy, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2013.  When she isn’t writing or reading, she’s probably taking walks in the Pennsylvania woods, trying to grow plants without killing them, or baking cookies.

An MFA in writing for children grad from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she’s also the children’s fiction editor at the lit journal Hunger Mountain.

Naturally, my first question is what kind of cookies?

More often than not, they’re my favorite (gingersnaps) or my husband’s (chocolate chip). The winter holidays are coming up, though, which means I’ll be baking decorated sugar cookies and that insanely addictive chocolate-covered caramel-coated cracker thing (which is not really a cookie, but who cares?).

In MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, the first book in your trilogy, your heroine, Hilary Westfield is determined to flee Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Young Ladies to live the life of a pirate. Can we assume you, too, fled the world of tea sandwiches and petticoats?

Hilary and I have vastly different opinions about both sandwiches and petticoats. I would actually love to spend my days wearing dresses out of Jane Austen movies and eating miniature versions of food. The closest I’ve ever gotten to this, though, was a ballroom dancing class I had to take in 5th grade, which was horrifying enough to convince even the daintiest young lady to take up a life of piracy. Pirates are never forced to dance with sweaty-palmed ten-year-old boys, after all, and they have absolutely no interest in the Electric Slide.

You’ve written in your blog about the stalled novel, despair and epiphany that gave birth to MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. Any wisdom you’d like to share with struggling writers?

I still have to remind myself every day that writing a scene, a chapter, or even an entire novel that doesn’t work out is not a waste. The manuscript that I wrote (and abandoned) before the one that got published may never see the light of day, but I grew as a writer while I worked on it, so I don’t regret the time I spent on it. More recently, I’ve been struggling to revise my next book, writing entirely new scenes one day and deleting them the next. It’s been a frustrating process, and sometimes I feel like I’m not moving forward, but I’m pretty sure I’m learning something from all of this writing and deleting, and hopefully what I learn will eventually make the book stronger.

One last question: how has your experience as children’s fiction editor at Hunger Mountain informed your writing?

Reading the slush pile, in particular, is a very humbling experience, and it’s given me an interesting perspective on the whole process of manuscript submission and rejection. I’ve read so many stories that are well written and clever, but maybe we’ve run something similar in a recent issue, or maybe I feel like the story is more for adults than for children, or maybe it’s just not connecting with me. I hate sending rejection emails, and I particularly hate it when the story I’m rejecting is strong but not the right fit for Hunger Mountain. As a writer, though, it makes me feel a little better because I know rejections aren’t personal, and they don’t necessarily mean that I haven’t written a story worth telling.

Thanks, Caroline!

You can connect with Caroline on Facebook. Also, check out her website at




  1. “I still have to remind myself every day that writing a scene, a chapter, or even an entire novel that doesn’t work out is not a waste.”

    This really resonates with me 🙂 I’m still struggling to make it through an entire draft of a novel and I keep having to remind myself it’s worth the time spent, even if it never goes anywhere in the publishing world. It’s really encouraging to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, even though it’s a struggle.

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