Mama Diaries

Friday, May 29, 2020

Graduation: COVID Style

My daughter has graduated! And as fate would have it, she graduated during the COVID pandemic.

All things considered, I think it was a very nice graduation ceremony. The first part involved a parade. Seniors decorated their cars with balloons, posters, and paint and drove down the street to the school.

Onlookers cheered with noisemakers, posters, and more balloons. After stopping at Point A to check-in, the Seniors pulled around to the front of the school to receive their diploma. And of course, due to COVID safety regulations, the volunteers who distributed the diplomas all wore masks.

I was concerned there'd be some fender-benders. Put together a bunch of crazy high school Seniors and make them drive on the left side of the road -what could go wrong? But somehow it all seemed to work out.

The following day there was an online graduation ceremony. We sat there in the comfort of our home as the principal, Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and district supervisors gave their speeches. And then we watched as each student in the graduating class was announced and the pictures of about 400 Seniors went across the screen. The whole thing took about an hour.

It was kind of nice not having to go to downtown Atlanta, fight the traffic, and deal with the crowds. They should do it like this every year!

Have any of you had graduating kids in your family? If so, what was the ceremony like?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Guest Author, Stephanie Faris and The Popularity Code

Today I have a special guest, Stephanie Faris at my place talking about her new release, The Popularity Code.

Hi, Stephanie! Welcome to my pad! 

Tell us about your latest book, The Popularity Code.

The Popularity Code focuses on an app called SlamBook, which allows students to anonymously post comments about each other online. Many of the comments are mean, which puts the main character, Faith, in a tough position. She figures out how to hack into the app and see who’s posting what, but she doesn’t know what to do with the information.

Online bullying is such a relevant topic for toady’s middle-grade kids. What do you hope they’ll take away after reading your book?

We seem to think that bad-mouthing others is a way to bond with others and win over friends. But those words have consequences. I would hope that readers would see that even when they’re posting anonymously, there’s someone at the other end of those messages, and words have consequences.

Without giving away too much of the story, tell us who your favorite character in the book is and your least favorite and why.

My favorite is always my main character. In this case, I really admire Faith’s determination to become a successful computer programmer. My least favorite is Janelle, the popular best friend. I started out rooting for her, but in the end, she’s half the person Faith is.

What challenges, if any, did you encounter when writing The Popularity Code?

That’s easy! The biggest challenge was writing a story where most of the action happens online. I had no idea how challenging that would be. I had to find ways to describe what was happening through the characters’ reactions, rather than just showing what was on the screen.

Do you have any advice for authors who write middle-grade stories?

So much of a person’s life at that age is tied into friendships. The way we all navigate those relationships at that age sets the stage for how we’ll handle relationships later in life, I think. Most of the best middle-grade books have friendship at their core.

Are you working on anything else?

I have three books in various stages of development right now: a spooky chapter book series and two middle-grade books. Fingers crossed on all three! 

Mean Girls meets The Clique in this relatable M!X novel that tackles the effects of online bullying.
Faith Taylor is popular by association, thanks to her BFFs, Adria and Janelle. When a new website called SlamBook targets her school’s popular kids, Faith gets sucked in. And when she discovers her own page on the site, she finds herself obsessing over the comments people are posting about her. Some are good, some are…not so good. Faith becomes determined to match the negative comments to the people and begins to retaliate by posting negative comments of her own.
Soon, Faith finds that people are talking about the comments she’s leaving. Even though she does feel guilty, it’s just so easy to be mean behind the anonymity of her laptop. But when her comments go too far, she realizes she must figure out a way to make things right before it’s too late.

My Review:
When a new website called Slambook starts up at Faith Taylor's school, kids become obsessed about seeing what others write about them on their pages. Under anonymity, they can write things about other students too. What starts off as a place to share sweet comments about each other, soon turns to ugly bullying. So ugly that it sends one person into a serious state of depression. Faith needs to use her coding skills to figure out who is behind all the nasty comments and change things for the better.

The Popularity Code addresses a real problem middle-school kids face: Cyber-bullying. This book sheds light on the problem and shows how harmful hurtful comments can be. Perhaps those reading it will think twice before "slamming" someone when they realize how serious the consequences can be.

This is a well-written book with a topic that's very relevant to middle-school kids. 5 Stars.


Stephanie Faris is the author of the middle-grade books 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan chapter book series. When she isn't writing books for children, she writes technology, finance, and business content for a variety of websites. She currently lives in her hometown, just north of Nashville. Visit her online at

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Voyagers The Third Ghost Book Release and IWSG Post

I am super-excited that the IWSG anthology, Voyagers, The Third Ghost is being released!  Here's the latest blog post about it where I  share a little about the inspiration behind my contribution, The Ghosts of Pompeii: Click here to read.

Voyagers: The Third Ghost
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Journey into the past…Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of
Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales
will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!
Release date – May 5, 2020
$13.95, 6x9 trade paperback, 168 pages
Print ISBN 9781939844729 / EBook ISBN 9781939844736
Juvenile fiction – historical/action & adventure/fantasy & magic

Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter. A Writer’s Digest 101 Best Website for Writers and The Write Life’s Best 100 Website for Writers
Links:Amazon -
Barnes & Noble -
ITunes -
Kobo -
Goodreads -

And since it's time for the IWSG post of the month, let me do that.

The question is, what do you do to get in the "zone" for writing?

I grab my notebook, pencil, and all of my notes and park myself on the floor with my legs stretched out. I never sit at my desk when I write. I'm stuck there with my computer all the time for my other jobs. Getting away from my desk gets me into the writing zone.  Sometimes I'll take my notebook outside. My favorite place is to write is at the beach. What about you? What do you do to get in the writing zone?