This week in #LitChat we’re chatting with five middle grade authors who write hard-hitting, get-to-the-heart novels tackling such topics as racism, war, poverty, aging and death, and bullying. Join the discussion at 4 p.m. ET on December 5, 2016 in #LitChat. You can follow #LitChat through Twitter, or login to our dedicated channel at

Featured authors in our MG Gets Real discussion are Kathleen Burkinshaw, Joyce Hostetter, Shannon Wiersbitzky, Kerry O’Malley Serra, and Shannon Hitchcock.

Kathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw

TheLastCherryBlossomKathleen Burkinshaw resides in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is aKah kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain.

The Last Cherry Blossom is the story of her mother’s family in Japan during WWII and her mother’s experiences surviving the A-bomb in Hiroshima. Kathleen has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

Joyce Hostetter

joyce-hostetteraimJoyce Moyer Hostetter lives right where many of her characters do –in rural North Carolina. She’s always on the lookout—hoping to bump into them. In the absence of a time machine that would take her to the 1940’s she immerses herself in research to discover what their world was like.

Joyce’s novel, Blue, won the International Reading Association Award, The NC Juvenile Literature Award, and Parent’s Choice Silver Honor.  It is used widely in North Carolina schools. Aim is a prequel to BlueComfort is a sequel to BlueHealing Water, set in Hawaii’s leprosy settlement, is available via E-book.

Shannon Wiersbitzky

shannon-wiersbitzkywhat-flowers-rememberShannon Wiersbitzky spent her childhood summers in West Virginia, which inspired the location for her first two novels. A believer in the ultimate goodness of people, many of her stories involve friends and neighbors coming together in unlikely ways to help others.

The Summer of Hammers and Angels deals with the subject of poverty and friendship, of loneliness and community. It was nominated for the William Allen White award. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Habitat for Humanity. What Flowers Remember tackles the topic of Alzheimer’s and how one young girl is able to rally an entire community to save the memories of someone she loves. The book has been named one of the 2015 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts as well as a Bank Street 2015 Best Children’s Books of the Year for ages 12 to 14. Shannon’s own grandfather had Alzheimer’s. This story is her attempt to describe what it feels like to be forgotten so other children impacted by the disease know they are not alone. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Shannon wrote (and badly illustrated) her first picture book when she was in elementary school. Today she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and their crazy rescue mutt. When possible, Shannon enjoys spending time in classrooms talking about books and leading writing workshops.

Kerry O’Malley Serra

just-a-drop-of-water-cover-copykerry-cerra-author-photoKerry O’Malley Cerra is the author of the 9/11 middle-grade novel Just A Drop of Water, which won a Florida Book Award, the Crystal Kite Award, and was named to VOYAs Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Readers’ 2014 list. In addition, the book has been named a finalist for the 2015-2016 Maine Student Book Award, the 2016-2017 Truman Award (Missouri), and the 2016-2017 Magnolia Award (Mississippi).

A former high school history teacher, Kerry holds a degree in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida and continues to use her teaching skills in author presentations at schools across the country. Additionally, she is the critique coordinator for the SCBWI Florida chapter, where she enjoys studying craft alongside writer friends.

Though she’ll always consider South Jersey/Philly her home, she currently lives in Florida with her husband, kids, and three poorly behaved rescue dogs.

Shannon Hitchcock

shannon-hitchcockruby-lee-and-meShannon Hitchcock grew up in rural North Carolina on a 100-acre farm. Her extended family and love of the South are integral to her stories. She is the author of the critically acclaimed The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, hailed for its immediacy and cadenced voice. Her second novel, Ruby Lee & Me is based on Shannon’s experience with school integration, and the African-American teacher who taught her to read. Shannon’s picture book biography, Overgrown Jack, was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award. Her writing has been published in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Children’s Writer, and other magazines. Shannon currently divides her time between Tampa, Florida and Hendersonville, North Carolina.