Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 28, 2020

Book Giveaway: I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner

Barbara Bottner has new young audlt book, I Am Here Now, published by Imprint – US Macmillan. She has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Barbara!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Set in the 1960s, Barbara Bottner’s I Am Here Now is a beautiful novel in verse about one artist’s coming of age. It’s a heartbreaking, powerful and inspiring depiction of what it’s like to shatter your life―and piece it all back together.

You can’t trust Life to give you decent parents, or beautiful eyes, a fine French accent or an outstanding flair for fashion. No, Life does what it wants. It’s sneaky as a thief.

Maisie’s first day of High school should be exciting, but all she wants is to escape.

Her world is lonely and chaotic, with an abusive mother and a father who’s rarely there to help.

So when Maisie, who finds refuge in her art, meets the spirited Rachel and her mother, a painter, she catches a glimpse of a very different world―one full of life, creativity, and love―and latches on.

But as she discovers her strengths through Rachel’s family, Maisie, increasingly desperate, finds herself risking new friendships, and the very future she’s searching for.

Picture of the true family this novel is based on. Barbara on right.


My YA novel, I Am Here Now was born quite suddenly, but after a long period of gestation. I had written two YA’s in the 1980’s and I thought I was probably done with the genre. I don’t generally read a lot of YA, but my students do, so they keep me more knowledgeable than I’d otherwise be. I’d come across a few free verse YA’s. One told a story that was very accessible and something in me responded to it, as follows: “It’s good. I can do better!” Yes, a bit of a competitive streak engaged with my own need to tell my story is what got me going.

I had a lot of emotional material to deal with from growing up in a dysfunctional home, and it you read the novel, you can see my point here. What I loved about free verse was its immediacy. And that you can turn a scene on a dime, so to speak because you can contradict yourself (as the narrator) which gives a bit of a shock or even can help you become more poetic. It was a great fit for my story and early on, when I began to show it, editors were very united in saying: “yes, this should stay in free verse,” even if they turned the manuscript down. That was a surprise because the form was so new to me. I showed it prematurely, so yes, lots of rejections. I think I had had four or five narrators in early drafts. They were also united in saying ‘too many people are talking here.’ So it became four, then three, then two and eventually only one narrator. The plus side of this extra work was that by the time Maisie emerged as the voice of the story, I knew a lot about all the characters. I do love writing characters and dialogue. So the book began to take shape.

It needed one more element, and this is what I generally am not great at: plot. I knew when I submitted it a year later, that the plot was weak, but I hoped the voice would carry it. And carry it, it did, up to a point. I was sort of guilty in knowing it needed another go but I didn’t want to do it until I knew editors thought I had something. My agent thought I’d be safer with prose at one point; it’s more commercial so I put the entire book into prose. It was awful. It was clunky, there were no transitions, it bobbed in and out of scenes with no apparent reason. Unfortunately, we sent this around and it was roundly rejected.

By the time I reversed course and put it back into free verse, I think my agent was sick of the project. I love my agent. But he was tired of me and the novel. Now, here’s an interesting publishing story. At one point I was working with Erin Stein at Imprint/Macmillan, and we did a picture book called Amy Is Famous together. We had several meetings to go over the manuscript and the art; the artist Yuyi Chen was new and we offered her guidance. Somewhere during that time, I must have asked Erin to take a look at the novel. Maisie is Jewish and, if possible, I wanted a Jewish editor because I felt she/he would resonate with the material. So, cut to, the draft is done. It’s not going out. I’m working on other projects and I’m in New York meeting with Erin on Amy is Famous. I’m about to leave, gathering my coat, saying goodbye. Erin looks at me strangely and say: “Don’t you want to talk about your novel?”

At that moment I draw a blank. ‘Novel? How does she know I wrote a novel?”And then I make the connection. ‘I must have sent it to her!’ You know how in publishing time is elastic? So, Erin tells me she likes it, but of course, she has noticed the plot deficiency. She simply said: ‘It needs more percussion.’

Bingo! So, everything in me snapped to attention. I went back to work. Thus the character Richie was born. He became one of the main players as he’s Maisie’s best, ‘platonic’ friend. Both their families are experiencing violence from a parent. Richie is obsessed with James Joyce and Maisie. She occasionally thinks of him as more than a pal. The question early on is, could he be more her? He does something about 2/3rds through the story that puts a lot of action into high gear and forces Maisie to make some awful choices for herself.

Erin’s gentle, wise suggestion was so on the mark for my unconscious. It was hungering for the right prompt. I think this is where people get confused with the process. A great editor, at least for a novel, doesn’t have to-and doesn’t generally have time to–offer detailed feedback over scenes and line edits. I’ve worked in TV and features where this is more likely to happen. But, at least for me, the nudge I got that day what I needed.

Getting the book into a final state when you are writing free verse is a labor of love. Combing through the lines to try to fashion them into something beautiful and meaningful, and to carry the emotion intended is truly an artistic pursuit. You have to love language. I was never trained in poetry; I was never trained in fiction either as I was an art student. I studied on my own. My vocabulary was a visual one. But I fell head over heels for language and it’s what I love about reading other authors. If you don’t have a native love of language, I probably won’t be your reader. I also think this is where education plays a part. If we murder the English language, we are also impoverishing our thinking.

This is dangerous.

Soap box over. I hope you enjoy the novel.


Barbara Bottner, a New York Times Bestseller, has written over 45 books for children in all genres, from wordless to YA novels. She began as an illustrator and has mostly concentrated on picture books. In the last few months, she published four picture books* and this new free verse YA. She has worked in children’s television, features, written humor and features for The Miami Herald, The LA Weekly, fiction for Cosmpolitan, reviews for the NY and LA Sunday Times Book Review. She teaches privately and her students and ex-students include luminaries in the field such as Lane Smith, Bruce Degen, Robin Preiss Glasser, Laura Numeroff, Alix Flinn, Barney Saltberg, Antoinette Portis and many more. She received the Distinguished University Teaching Award from the New School of Social Research in 1990.

*What A Cold Needs-Holiday House
*Amy is Famous-Imprint
*Where’s My Turtle-Random House
*The Crazypants Tea Party-Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Barbara, Thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I am always fascinated by novels written in verse. Sounds lik another feather in your writing cap. Good luck with the book.

Barbara is having a virtual writes book launch on SATURDAY, AUGUST 15 FROM 4:30 PM TO 5:30 PM PT. Here is the link. 

She will read from and take questions about her free verse novel I AM HERE NOW, published by Imprint/Macmillan.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I was very moved by the back story of this book – Barbara’s personal journey, as well as her professional one – she has shown and shared such courage on both fronts! Congrats and best of luck with this launch!


  2. Sounds like a terrific story, I’d love to have a copy. Thanks for the chance to win it.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and pinned an image on Pinterest with a link as well:
    I also follow your blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, stay safe everyone!


  3. Wow. This sounds like a terrific read and an interesting journey. Thanks for the post. I will pass on the giveaway.


  4. Thank you for sharing the backstory of your novel. I love novels in verse and look forward to reading this one!


  5. Loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing with us! This sounds like a wonderful story! Congrats!

    Tweeted and I follow by email. 🙂


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