Indie Next Selection


It'll stick in your brain long after you've read it, this one, and you'll be glad that it's in there. -Fuse #8 blog

Hear a sample here.


Button Down

Short chapters, simple yet meticulous language, a wholesome feel and the universal story of a boy with a dream combine to give this one widespread appeal. -Kirkus

Details and a sample chapter here


The Curse of the Buttons

Ike Button, 11 and an endearing combination of credulous and cranky, is a high-energy wannabe hero who is constantly getting knocked down. And that's what makes him such fun. ... The characters charm, and the material is enhanced by the author's well-realized rendition of time and place. -Kirkus

Details here.


Winner of the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award

A boy, his dog, a raft, a river, the falls...


Booklist Top Ten Youth First Novel

Can writing a letter mend a heart, unite a family, help a girl grow up?

Teachers and Book Groups


If I had to answer in one word the question

Where do ideas come from?

I'd say 


It's all about the wondering

read more


Ylvisaker = ILL vi soccer

News and Guest Blogs


Poems and Sketches

Friday May 3 / 5-9 pm 

CSUMB Salinas Center for Art and Culture 

1 Main Street, Salinas, California

exhibit runs through August


Ike's hometown newspaper in 1861 was the Keokuk Daily Gate City, so it's fun to have that same paper featuring an article about The Curse of the Buttons.


For their quirky celebrations feature, celebrates National Button Day with an interview about The Curse of the Buttons.


How setting inspires story, a Curse of the Buttons guest post on the blog of marvelous Elizabeth Dulemba. 


Thanks to the Monterey County Weekly for this feature article, including an excerpt from Button Down. 


I'm honored to be November's Star Author for Christchurch New Zealand Library's Kids Blog. Find writing tricks and treats, ideas for using pictures as story starters, and small collections any writer can start. Tiny Collections and Growing a Story: The art of doing nothing are also posted here on my website. 


Just Launched is the Children's Literature Network's spot to read the behind the scenes scoop on newly released books. Here's my contribution about Button Down


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday's Barbara Watson and I chat about the writing process in a post she calls Buttoning Down


In the Children's Literature Network's Bookscope, I look back at how Little Klein came about. I've made some lucky mistakes in my day, and this is the story of one of them. 


Novel and Nouveau is Barbara Watson's excellent blog about writing and reading middle grade lit. She generously reviewed The Luck of the Buttons recently, and asked me to write a guest post about process as well. 


Bruce Black, author of Writing Yoga, interviewed me about process on his wonderful blog wordswimmer. Thanks, Bruce!


To celebrate The Luck of the Buttons release, there was a pie party on Amy Alessio's excellent Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts blog! Read and bake here: Memory PieIt's All About the CrustPie Worthy, and Launch Day Pie. Then try Amy's excellent pie craft


Children's Literature Network interviewer Tom Owens asks me, What's right with children's literature today? Libraries, that's what!

Find books at:



  • Button Down
    Button Down
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • The Luck of the Buttons
    The Luck of the Buttons
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • Little Klein
    Little Klein
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • Dear Papa
    Dear Papa
    by Anne Ylvisaker
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Entries in writing process (6)


Excuses Excuses


words are timid with

this hummingbird hovering

over my paper



This Writer's Life

I write in a little house in the ravine behind my house, a space I cleverly call "The Little House." This is where I've been snugged away writing a new novel and working on other projects.

That stack of papers on the bottom shelf of my bookcase is an accumulation of drafts of the new novel. The wall is covered in images that inspire characters, places, ideas. Every once in a while I take everything off the wall and start again.

The top of the bookshelf is home to my favorite pen and pencil cups. My laptop is just out of view on the gray table. I write longhand in notebooks, doodle, draw, paint, play with ideas on paper, and type on my laptop. I read poems, write poems, make word lists, sit staring out the window letting shy ideas tiptoe in. 

Music is almost always playing in the little house. Right now Glenn Gould is playing Bach's Goldberg Variations. Earlier I was listening to the Maggie Rogers and Moby stations on Pandora.

My dog Buster is outside barking at a deer who has come up to the fence to peer in at him like he's an exhibit in the zoo. Sometimes Buster curls up in the chair to listen to me read the day's writing. There are persistent crows in the ravine, keeping a hawk at bay.

Out of this picture's view are two tall stacks of books balanced on metal spines. Books like Polly Horvath's My One Hundred Adventures, Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, and Sid Fleischman's The Whipping Boy, stories so good they make me itch to write stories of my own. Books like Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, and Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft that guide my way. 

I love words. I love stories. This is one lucky life.



My Writing Process Blog Tour

I am thrilled to be participating in the My Writing Process Blog Tour, which has been touring the world for many months, through many genres. Lauren Stringer, author and illustrator of many beautiful picture books, passed the baton to me. Please check out her post here. I’ll answer the tour’s four questions today, then tag two authors to share next week.

1. What am I working on?

I am getting ready for the November release of THE CURSE OF THE BUTTONS, my final book about the comically unlucky Button family. I reeled in generations of this fictional family to discover what put the Buttons on their path of misfortune and uncovered Great Granddaddy Ike’s boyhood story, set during the first summer of the Civil War.

I’m also writing my way into a new story. It’s still in a shy stage, so more on that another time.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

William Stafford has a wonderful essay about how historical events were once experienced by individuals as current events. As I write about an event in the past, I experience it through fictional individuals as if it was a current event. I hope that sense of immediacy comes through in my novels.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write because I wonder about us in all our humanness. I wonder about choices we make, relationships we have, how we resolve difficult emotions, why and how we interact in community. I was fortunate to have had a childhood that was particularly rich in intergenerational community, so that is a theme common to my books.

4. How does your writing process work?

As I begin a novel, I sort collections of images, posting on my wall anything that catches my eye, for color, for subject, for a feeling it stirs up in me. I especially like historic photographs for which I don’t have the background story, allowing scope for my imagination.

Once I have a collection of images, I start over and over and over again, writing the first things that pop into my head. At the same time, I follow tidbits of research about whatever era my noodlings lead me to. Then, once I have a spark of a story, I write to find out what happens next. Every day starts with “I wonder…”

Look for answers about the writing process from these authors next week:

Michelle Edwards is the author and illustrator of many books for children, one book for adults, and nearly one hundred essays and cards for knitters. Her titles include: CHICKEN MAN (winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and A KNITTER’S HOME COMPANION (an illustrated collection of stories, patterns and recipes). Michelle grew up in Troy, New York and now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she shares, with her husband, a house full of books, yarn, and the artifacts of their three daughter's childhoods.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin has published 16 books for children. Her picture book biography of a self taught scientist–SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, illustrated by Mary Azarian, (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), was awarded the 1999 Caldecott medal by the American Library Association. THE LAMP, THE ICE, AND THE BOAT CALLED FISH, Houghton Mifflin, 2001) was named an ALA Notable Book. ON SAND ISLAND (Houghton Mifflin, 2003) was named to Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year” list.  Her most recent book FARMER WILL ALLEN AND THE GROWING TABLE (Readers to Eaters Press, 2013) was named a Notable Book by the ALA.  This fall Readers to Eaters will publish a picture book biography of Alice Waters—ALICE WATERS AND THE TRIP TO DELICIOUS.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin and her husband Richard live in Mount Vernon, Iowa.


Swoop and Peek

I don't usually work outdoors, especially when I'm deep into a rewrite, as I am now on the third Button book. But it's January, I'm just back from Iowa, and while much of the nation is in a deep freeze, it hit 75 degrees in Monterey. I felt a responsibility to appreciate the day fully. Thought I could pull up a quiet spot of beach and write undisturbed. But there are critics everywhere. 


She gave me her opinion in no uncertain terms. I'll work at home from now on.  


Tiny Collections

I'm on a virtual trip to New Zealand this month as Christchurch Library's Star Author. What fun to connect with readers and writers on another Pacific shore. This week's topic is tiny collections: things writers anywhere, with any amount of space, can collect. Find links to the other entries on this page's Guest Blogs sidebar. 

I am a collector of small things. One of the great things about being a writer is that even a hobby like collecting can be part of the job. Do you like to write? Here are a three collections you could start for yourself.

I’ve been collecting postcards and photographs since my great aunt started sending me art postcards before I could read or write. Hundreds of postcards and photographs fit nicely in a shoebox. Read my last post to discover how collecting images inspires my writing

In elementary school I started collecting names. The smallest notebook has space for dozens of names. Characters like LeRoy Pence (Dear Papa), Harold Sylvester George Klein (Little Klein), and Verlon Leek (Button Down) were inspired by names I collected as far back as 3rd grade. Whenever you hear a name that you like the sound of, or is interesting to you, write it down.

And my favorite tiny collection? Words. I keep my words on small slips of paper in an ordinary jar. Sometimes a word just strikes my fancy and I’ll write it down: labyrinth. If I’m feeling verb-y, I’ll go to a cookbook and write down all the action words: mix, stir, whisk, sift... Sometimes I start thinking of a group of words and add a bunch at once. Recently I added words I like saying out loud: Iowa, Ohio, Maori, autumn, iota, swift, oriel, oleo.

I started collecting words with my writers group several years ago. We drew words from our word jars each time we met then each of us would write something using the same four words for our next meeting. 

Every chapter in Little Klein was written using those word jar words. Harold turns out to be sickly so I could  have his mother warm a teakettle day and night. A storm arose when I had to use the word wind. 

If you like to write, I think you’ll have as much fun as I do collecting pictures, names, and words. Better yet, grab a friend and start collecting together. Then watch your writing soar!