Today, I'm going to be skipping my regular What's Up Wednesday post to clear space for two authors, who aren't only talented, but stealthy, quick and nimble. Kea Alwang and Melissa Mertz are the coauthors of the delightful middle grade series, THE SECRET PATH OF NED THE NINJA.
Kea Alwang lives in New Jersey with her podcasting husband, film-obsessed son, and book-munching daughter. Apart from writing and world building, she teaches Isshin-ryu karate, is passionate about bullying issues, searches for the perfect chocolate bar (Green & Black comes close!), and immerses herself in multiple fan girl obsessions. Her other works include the Young Adult Speculative Fiction series, Based on a Dream.
Melissa Mertz owns and operates The Dojo Paramus in Paramus, NJ, where, as a 5th level Black Belt in Isshin-ryu, she has taught for over ten years. She is forever grateful for the opportunity and privilege of teaching martial arts to those who have trained with her. She thanks her students and their parents for their trust and for following her path to Black Belt. Melissa lives in New Jersey with her star-throwing son and the sweetest dog the world over.
Believe it or not, these two lovely ladies have agreed to answer a few questions too!
Welcome, Kea and Melissa!!!
First off, ( I just have to ask this). . .are you two secret super ninjas?
If we told you, we would no longer be much of a secret, and therefore, not very super! :)
I was afraid you might say that, but a girl has to try! So on to questions you can answer. . .
What inspired your love for Isshin-Ryu karate to seep over into a series for middle graders?
Through the years, we have taught so many different types of kids. Some might lack coordination, but have a passion for the mental aspects of the art. Others might excel in technique, but fall apart when tested on the history of the art. Each has his or her strengths and weaknesses, as we all do. However, we have watched so many kids build confidence as they faced their personal challenges.
Why does it work?
Since bullying and meanness are unacceptable at Melissa's school, the kids are able to face their challenges without stressing over being humiliated. Kids are challenged firmly, but always by teachers (senseis) who want the students to reach their potential. One of the ways we believe students can move beyond the effects of bullying is to focus on the seven virtues of bushido (the code of the Samurai).... most importantly, honor. If you honor yourself, you can take the labels and stigmas thrown at you and treat them as gifts that are not to your taste. In other words, you don't accept them. If you don't accept them, they do not belong to you. They remain a weight on the person who is trying to force that gift (label or stigma) upon you. Since grade school is when bullying builds and not every kid gets to take martial arts, we wanted to give kids who bully a more personal glance into the life of a bullied kid. We wanted to give bullied kids a hero in Ned, who does struggle with confidence and fear ... his path is not easy ... but who is following a path toward remaining true to himself. Ned is a mash-up of so many students we have taught through the years. He can be Ned the Nerd or Ned the Ninja ... or Ned the Nerdy Ninja ... and there is nothing wrong with any of those titles as long as the one Ned claims allows him to feel comfortable in his own skin.
You two don't only work with kids together, but write together.
What is your favorite part about writing together?
Sitting in our favorite cafe, Cool Beans, and outlining a story. Kea hits the coffee, Melissa hits the tea, and we hit on funny and meaningful moments together.
That does sound like fun! But I bet there's things you'd rather eat worms than do as well.
Kea: I'd rather eat worms than deal with getting my daughter through shots at the doctor. As a courtesy, I should probably hand out cotton to the entire staff for their ears next time.
Melissa: If I think too long about eating worms, I could become vegetarian.
I totally understand that, Melissa. Then it's better if we quickly move on over to other thoughts... like bookworms!
What were you favorite books while growing up?
Kea: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, then The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, and the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
Melissa: Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans
What was your biggest wish as a child?
Kea: First, I wanted to be a writer, then an astronaut, then a writer again!
Melissa: To have a summer beach house and live at the beach.
Ninja Writers In Space!!! That sounds like fun!
If you want to learn more about Kea and Melissa, go ahead and visit over at. . .
Ned Herts is back! "I know. You have questions: Did Ned the Nerd wind up in Witness Protection for standing by as Beck the Bonebreaker kissed the concrete? Did Beck make good on his threat to tackle Ned another day? Did Ned set his coordination-impaired tootsies back on the mats at Tora Khan Martial Arts? Did the Tiger King drag our hero out for another night of pushing him beyond his limited limits? Did Ned Herts become the most notable name in superhero comic book history? Did he get the girl?"