Win a FREE author visit to your classroom!

Free author visitTo celebrate Angelhood winning a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Award, I’m giving away one free author visit to a classroom in the Chicago area. Details and entry form are here.

But hurry! Contest is only open until November 15, 2015!

Spread the word to any teachers, principals, and school librarians you may know in the Chicago area.


Posted in Angelhood, Giveaway, Middle Grade, Reading, Speculative Fiction, Teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Major Audiobook Giveaway!

Big News!

We’ve got 5 (five!) copies of the audiobook version of Angelhood to give away!

Audiobook giveaway

Five copies of my award-winning young adult novel Angelhood have just been released to be given away as prizes! To enter this contest, simply subscribe to my monthly newsletter between September 22 and October 2 (the Feast of the Guardian Angels!). Since this contest is for an audiobook, international contestants are welcome!

Enter to win by subscribing below!

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An Open Letter to Pope Francis on the World Meeting of Families and the Synod on the Family

Soon, Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and then in October, he and bishops from around the world will meet in Rome for the Synod on the Family. There will probably be talk on birth control, abortion, and divorce as well as caring for children and the elderly. And if there’s any talk on same sex marriage, you can be sure the media will put that front and center. But in all this talk, there’s one aspect of family I think rarely gets mentioned. Perhaps it’s purposely swept under the rug, or maybe it’s just forgotten. Large families seem to be encouraged in the Catholic church, but what about those of us who aren’t called to marriage or religious life? Where do the single people fit into the Church? It is to that end that I write this letter.

Dear Pope Francis,

You have done such a wonderful job reminding us all to reach out to the marginalized people of this world, to care for the sick, the elderly, and the poor. I know that I am only one of many people who have tried in the last few years to follow your example.

There is another group of marginalized people that I’d like to call your attention to. Perhaps their needs aren’t as desperate as those of the sick, the poor, and the elderly, but they are often forgotten, especially when there is much attention being focused on families, such as at the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the Synod on the Family. Please do not mistake what I am saying. Families are certainly important, but I’ve noticed that sometimes when we talk of families, we mention only the mother, the father, the children, and the grandparents. But what about the unmarried member of the family? When talk about family life occurs, the single person tends to be forgotten, but I beg you not to forget about the single people! Especially those of us single Catholics who dreamed for years of getting married and having children but find ourselves unmarried and childless. For years, we prayed for a spouse and children. We got involved in our churches, taught Sunday School and religious education, worked in campus ministry, and served as lectors, cantors, and Eucharistic ministers. Meanwhile, we tried every conceivable method of finding a good Catholic to marry: volunteering, using Catholic dating websites, accepting blind dates, taking classes, praying rosary novenas, etc. For whatever reasons (and perhaps it is simply God’s will), we’ve never been blessed with a spouse and children.

So how can the Catholic church help? By recognizing the value and worth of the single person in the Church. Please recognize our role in the greater family, not just our biological family but our Church family as well. I will give you two examples of how this has not happened for two of my single friends. One friend (I’ll call her Elizabeth) recently moved to a new community. She wanted to find a church where she would feel at home. She tried a few parishes in her neighborhood and found one where she felt comfortable. However, she was having trouble figuring out how to get involved. Finally, Elizabeth saw an opportunity. The parish was holding an upcoming event. She decided she would attend as a way to meet more people in the parish. As she filled out the reservation form for the event, she noticed that at the bottom it read, “Return to your child’s homeroom teacher.” What? Only parents of school children were invited to this event? You can imagine how crushing this was to her.

My second example is a bit less specific, but still noteworthy. An old high school friend of mine admitted recently that she had stopped going to church several years ago. She was tired of sitting in the pew alone, watching all the married women with their husbands and children. Realizing how she didn’t have all that simply made her cry. She couldn’t fathom still going to church if it meant being reminded of how God hadn’t answered her prayers for a husband and children.

So how specifically can the church help?

  1. Please remind priests and deacons to remember single people when they are writing their homilies. Some of the priests I know write homilies as if they were only addressing parents. This greatly saddens not only the single people in the congregation, but also those couples struggling with infertility.
  1. Remind all church members that single people still play vital roles in the family. I may not be a mother myself, but I’m the loving aunt to thirteen nieces and nephews. I also play the role of aunt to my friends’ children. My fellow single friends and I are the ones who watch the kids so the couple can go out and enjoy an anniversary dinner. We are the ones who bring over meals when one of the spouses is sick. Often we care for our aging parents when our married siblings are busy with their own families. (I think especially of my great Aunt Mary who never married but spent many years caring for her father.) We are the ones who will stand at the back of the church with the little one so Mom and Dad can receive Communion in peace. Just because we don’t have families of our own doesn’t mean we don’t play an important role in the family-at-large.
  1. Remind church staff to word things in the bulletin so that single people feel welcome, too. No more “return this to your child’s homeroom teacher.” Again, this is a slam against single people as well as couples who have been unable to have children. Or even those couples who, for financial or other reasons, send their children to the public school.
  1. Remind church staff to actively seek out ways to involve single people in the church. When I think of my high school friend who stopped going to church, I wonder why no one ever invited her to sing in the church choir. She has an amazing singing voice! Perhaps if she had been encouraged to get involved, she wouldn’t have stopped going to church.
  1. Let’s see if we can’t find a way to engage the middle-aged single people in church. Here’s the thing: the Archdiocese of Chicago (where I live) has a relatively vibrant young adult ministry. For the last few decades, it’s done a good job of engaging single twenty- and thirty-somethings in the church. But what happens when you turn forty? If you’re still single, you’re wondering what you’re doing at church. You’re too old for the young adult group, you’re too young for the seniors group, and all the other people your age seem to be in the Mom’s Club.

Basically, I’d love to hear you and the other priests address the importance of the role of single people within the greater family of the church. And I’d love for them to utilize the (mostly) untapped resource that single people are within the church. Remember, single people often have more time on their hands than do married people. Think of all the good we could do in Christ’s name if only our presence was recognized, welcomed, and encouraged.

Grazie, Papa Francesco. Io prego per Lei ogni giorno.

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8 Books to Engage Your Middle School Student this School Year

As an author and middle school English teacher, I get a lot of requests from parents about what books I might recommend to their children. Since the school I teach at started early this year, I’ve already been listening to my students’ book talks on what they chose to read this summer. It hit me this past week that there are definitely some recurring favorites that have popped up many times over recent years.

So if you’re looking for a book to recommend to your child in middle school, here are some of the repeat favorites as recommended by their own peers! (In other words, the kids really like these books.)

Wonder1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio–If you haven’t yet discovered this gem about a boy with physical deformities heading back to a regular school after years of being home-schooled, please do yourself a favor and get a copy. I adored Wonder, I have nieces who have read it multiple times, and a ton of my students have enjoyed it and called it one of their favorites as well. You can read my original review here.

Mysterious Benedict Society2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart–Fun, fun, fun series of books by an author I got to meet years ago when the first book came out and he came to visit my school. A group of gifted children are invited to join a secret society only to find out they have been chosen for a very special mission. The Mysterious Benedict Society has a creative cast of characters, fun puzzles and riddles to solve, and an engaging plot. Even my mom read this one! Original review here.

IMG_37943. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin–This one is for lovers of fables and folklore. Grace Lin’s drawings are gorgeous, and her writing will sweep you away. In this story, a young girl travels to meet the Old Man in the Moon in order to save her poor family from famine. Original review here. Lovely tale!


So B. It4. So B. It by Sarah Weeks–A lovely contemporary story with a bit of a mystery to solve. Twelve-year-old Heidi lives with her mother who is mentally challenged. Her mom can only speak a few words, but Heidi is determined to get to the bottom of one word in particular that she can’t quite figure out. Original review here.


Ivan5. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate–This Newbery Medal Winner is reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web. A silverback gorilla named Ivan is the top attraction at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. His best friend is an elephant named Stella. When a new baby elephant arrives, Ivan decides he needs to find a better life for her than the Big Top Mall. Original review here. Probably most appropriate for younger middle school readers.

IMG_37906. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull–A great series for fantasy lovers who have finished Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and are looking for something else with magical creatures. I first reviewed this book back in 2013, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be participating in the official blog tour for Brandon Mull’s next book: The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven. Watch for my special post in October!

When You Reach Me7. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead–Fans of quirky mysteries with a major plot twist at the end will love this story of sixth grader Miranda who keeps receiving mysterious messages. The notes eerily predict the future and carry warnings of what might come. I can’t say too much about this book because I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say it was one of those books where the ending made it all worthwhile! Check out my review here.

Hidden Talents8. Hidden Talents by David Lubar–If you have a reluctant reader, this is the book I recommend. I’ll warn that it comes with a little mild language, but I’ve found that nearly every child I’ve read this book to (I change damn to darn and sucks to stinks when I read it aloud) loves it. There’s a sequel too. The kids often ask if there’s a third book and are really disappointed when I inform them there isn’t. Original review here.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical, Middle Grade, Mysteries, Reading, Speculative Fiction | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Angelhood Available on Audible!

Have you heard the news?

Angelhood is now available on Audible!

If you like to listen to books, you can now listen to an amazing recording of Angelhood. Voice-over artist Kaitlyn Radel does an amazing job of bringing seventeen-year-old guardian angel Nanette to life. Click on over to listen to a sample of her superb narration.

If you don’t have Audible yet, you can try it for free for 30 days!

Angelhood Audible

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Homemade Tiramisu & Other Ways I Relax

In this week’s Spin Cycle, Ginny Marie is asking us to write about how we relax. One of my favorite ways to relax is to bake. And by bake, I don’t even necessarily mean “turn on the oven.” I mean making any kind of dessert.

I’ll make cookies . . .

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Or cakes . . . .

Graduation Cap Cake

Or frozen treats . . .

Frozen Chocolate Mousse

Pretty much anything yummy.

I used to bring treats into work, but one of my old bosses complained that I must have too much time on my hands if I had time to bake! What she didn’t understand is that baking was the way I relaxed! If all I do is grade papers all the time, I become a really cranky teacher.

One of my favorite recent recipes has been making homemade tiramisu, perfected after taking cooking classes in Rome. Most people think tiramisu includes alcohol, but they’d be wrong. Real tiramisu doesn’t having alcohol. Only restaurants put in alcohol because they need it to act as a preservative. Real, fresh tiramisu doesn’t have any alcohol in it.


Sure, it still has espresso . . .


and mascarpone cheese . . .

IMG_3411and ladyfinger cookies . . .


. . . but no alcohol!

Want my recipe for real homemade tiramisu that’s easy and delicious? Sign up for my monthly newsletter and get it delivered to your inbox!

I guess I’ve decided that I miss my old baking blog a bit, so I’ve decided to share some recipes in my monthly newsletter. Sign up soon and you’ll get the tiramisu recipe in my next newsletter!

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media & Marketing

Since my book came out in April, I’ve been engaged in a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of social media marketing. In the past few weeks (since my return from the Italy/Spain trip), I’ve had some time to really dig back in again before school starts up next week.

BookTubeAThon PinterestOn the one hand, I LOVE it. Or at least, I’m totally fascinated by it. I’m wondering what will work and what won’t work. And sometimes the results are very interesting. I’m thinking things like . . .

  • How can I promote this awesome review I got on Readers’ Favorite? I’ve tweeted it, pinned it, and posted it to both my personal and professional Facebook pages. So far I’m getting the most likes on my personal Facebook page. But is that helping? Most of those people have already bought the book.
  • How do I make really attractive Pinterest pins that people will repin and that will bring traffic to my website? I wrote a whole blog post on that one.
  • What hashtags work the best in Twitter?
  • How do I make press releases that actually show up in online newspapers?
  • How do I can get more Pinterest followers? (I’ve quadrupled my followers in the last week. Of course, my numbers were small, so it wasn’t too hard. Ha! Follow me here, if you want to help my Pinteresting crusade. Leave me a note in the comments of this post, and I’ll follow you back.)
  • How do I get more subscribers to my monthly newsletter? You can subscribe here to learn about my writing news, appearances, and giveaways.
  • Should I have a YouTube channel? Guess what? Yes, I should. And do. It only has two videos so far, but still. Come visit me.

On the other hand, I HATE it. It’s sucking up my time. I follow one lead to build up my social media marketing and end up down a whole rabbit hole of information that makes the beautiful summer day outside suddenly disappear. What happened to my day? I’ve been tied to my laptop, my phone, and my iPad.

Argh! And I used to think marketing was boring! My college roommate majored in it, and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course, that was all before the social media explosion. I wonder if they teach a whole course in social media marketing in colleges now.

Got any social media marketing tips for me? I’d love to hear them! Of course, I may never again see the light of day if you do share them.

Want to hear about other people’s love/hate relationships? Click the button below to follow this week’s Spin Cycle.

Posted in Marketing, Spin Cycle, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How to get tickets to the Pope’s General Audience

In this second in my series on helpful travel tips in Italy, I’m going to explain how to get tickets to see the Pope at his weekly General Audience. Before my trip, I had read conflicting advice on line. “It’s to the left of St. Peter’s.” “It’s to the right of St. Peter’s.” “You have to ask a Swiss Guard.” Which Swiss Guard?

I’m going to make this ridiculously easy for you. Because really, it is easy.

First off, the General Audience is held every Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. except for during the month of July. If the weather is good (or even relatively good), it’s held outside in St. Peter’s Square. If the weather’s really bad, it’s held inside the Paul VI Auditorium, which would be to your left if you’re facing toward St. Peter’s Basilica.

Now, how to get tickets? It’s actually really easy. Stand in St. Peter’s Square and face toward the Basilica. See that set of colonnades off to your left?

Tickets for General Audience Photo

Walk through those colonnades. You’ll see a gated area. (By the way, this is the same gated area, you’d go to if you had tickets for the Scavi Tour, which gets you under St. Peter’s Basilica to see the old necropolis it was built upon and where St. Peter was actually buried.)

Need a bird's eye view?

Need a bird’s eye view?

In front of that gated area will be a Swiss Guard. Just ask him for the tickets. He has them in his pocket. No kidding. Don’t believe me? Read about what happened when my friend Katie and I went to Rome and went to get our tickets.

Tickets are free, and you can pick them up the day before.

With any luck, you’ll get a great photo of Pope Francis kissing a baby!

Pope Francis kissing the baby

Photo from General Audience on June 17, 2015

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BookTubeAThon 2015 TBR List!

Just a couple days ago, an author friend told me about a seven-day reading challenge called BookTubeAThon. It’s happening over on YouTube, but if you watch this video, you’ll hear about my list of books to be read in a week. (Ha! Not going to happen.)


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How to create Pinterest pins that bring traffic to your author website

Pinterest Tips for Authors

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to use Pinterest as an author, and a number of my author friends have asked me to share what I learned. Because Pinterest is a visual medium, it’s a lot easier to show you what to do rather than tell you, so I created a video.

Here are a few more general Pinterest tips that aren’t mentioned in the video:

  1. Make sure you have a profile picture on your Pinterest page. People are less likely to follow you if they can’t see who you are. Besides, you’re building an author brand. You are your brand.
  2. Consider adding a title like “author” or “mystery writer” after your name on your profile. For example, I’m “A.J. Cattapan, author.” That way I’m more likely to be found when people search for authors, and people will know exactly what they’re getting when they follow me.
  3. Make sure the description under your name has key terms that will help people identify you who are. As a writer, you’ll probably want to list what you write as well as what writing groups you belong to.

Again, the video is a step-by-step tutorial for creating the best pins. It does not cover the three things listed above. Instead, you’ll learn . . .

  1. what makes some Pinterest pins stand out from others.
  2. how to create attention-grabbing photos without buying an expensive photoshop program.
  3. how to pin those photos to Pinterest so that they drive attention back to your website–even if those photos aren’t actually on your website at all!

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Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments