Author Spotlight: Michelle Mohwreis
Sept. 2, 2022
We are excited to feature author Michelle Mohrweis and their debut middle grade novel, THE TROUBLE WITH ROBOTS (Peachtree), coming out on Sept. 27. Enter to win a signed and annotated copy with Sharpie art on the edges! (See sample edge, but will be on finished hardcover)
|Cover art by Kris Mukai, design by Maria Fazio, and art direction by Adela Pons.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I have loved writing since before I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I wrote stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in math. When I was in middle school, I wrote stories in the margins of my math notes. When I was in college, I spent every spare moment (including during my math class) dreaming up stories.
Somehow, I am not very good at math. But I am great at writing, and I love to do it!
As I grew up, writing for kids just felt natural. Kidlit is fun! It’s exciting! Kids get the best stories, and I wanted to take part in that.
Congrats on your debut middle grade novel, The Trouble with Robots! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
The Trouble with Robots is the chaos of a robotics room, the confusion of middle school, and the challenges of teamwork all rolled together. The story follows 8th graders Evelyn and Allie, who couldn’t be more different. Evelyn is a robotics loving perfectionist, while Allie is a “troublemaker” who just wants to be left alone with her art. When they are paired together on the same robotics team, they must figure out how to work together if they have any hope of saving the school’s robotics program.
The story was inspired by the robotics I taught. For years I coached VEX robotics, and it was so fun! Then COVID hit and we went into lockdown. I was at home, bored, and missing my students so badly. So, I started writing the story of this chaotic robotics team to pass the time.
From there, the story took on a life of its own. It’s fun and silly at times, but also serious at other times. It looks at grief and how we process it, from the painful grief of losing people we love, to the grief of changing dynamics and shifting friendships. It looks at friends and how different kids can pull together and create something amazing, and it looks at family and the different ways families look. It’s sad at times, but also so beautiful and full of hope.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I suppose that depends on what part you look at. Before querying this novel, I wrote so many books. I wrote a superhero story that never went anywhere, then spent years writing and querying a middle grade fantasy novel with no success. Because I had struggled and failed so much with the novels before, I was sure that Robots would be a long journey as well.
Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t. I started with a pitch contest on twitter called PitMad. That’s a contest where you tweet about your story, and if agents are interested you send them part (or all) of your story after they like your tweet. My current agent liked my tweet, so I sent her my full manuscript. She read it… and got back to me asking for a call two days later! It really felt like a whirlwind.
Once I signed with my agent, I spent a bit of time getting it ready, then we sent it out on submission (which is when my agent sent it to different publishers). From there, it took about seven months for my manuscript to sell.
My journey was relatively short, and I know I’m really lucky and privileged to have experienced such a quick journey. I’m also thankful for the years of work that came before Robots, the experience I had with trying and failing with other manuscripts that taught me so much.
What projects are your working on now?
So many! I have a lot of drafts and half-finished stories I’m playing with. I’ve been dabbling in YA fantasy and scifi and poking at a few new ideas for middle grade contemporary. Nothing I can actively talk about yet, and some of which may never go anywhere, but I lot I’m having fun with it. I’m also working on edits for my second story, Young Engineers, that comes out in Spring 2024.
What are some of your favorite classic middle grade books? recent ones?
For favorite classic books, I 100% must recommend the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. I grew up on those fantasy books and adore them so much.
For more recent books, there are so many I adore. Clues to the Universe by Christina Li was a fantastic dive into the 80s and model rocket building, Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor is the most adorable first crush story I’ve ever read, and if we want something more out of this world, Seventh Grade vs. The Galaxy by Joshua S. Levy is a funny and delightful scifi story.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep going and find what works for you! There’s going to be a lot of advice out there, a lot of strategies and tips and suggestions. At the end of the day, the most important advice is whatever helps you write, and it’s totally okay if some advice you hear doesn’t work for you. Keep going, keep trying different things, and keep searching for your process.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Did you know I was a baton twirler when growing up? From about third grade through high school, I competed in baton competitions and twirled for my schools. Whenever I wasn’t writing or reading, I could usually be found with my hair in tight buns, wearing glittery leotards and dance tights, and twirling baton. I even learned how to twirl FIRE BATON in high school!
Wow, that's awesome! Where can people find you online?
For info on my books, me, and my writing, check out my website at: MichelleMohrweis.com
I’m also on twitter as @Mohrweis_writes and Instagram as @MichelleMohrweis
Michelle Mohrweis is a middle school robotics and engineering teacher and a moderator at the Tucson Festival of Books. When not writing, they can be found launching paper rockets down the middle of their street. They live with their husband and two dogs in Arizona. The Trouble with Robots is Michelle's debut novel. Follow them on Twitter @Mohrweis_Writes and visit them on the web at www.michellemohrweis.com.
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