Happy book birthday to Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up

On the day Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up hits bookshelves, I’m taking a moment to reflect on who I wrote this book for.

Do one of these kids sound like someone you know?

Or perhaps even someone you once were?

Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up is for the kid who once loved something but decided they couldn’t do it anymore if they weren’t the best at it.

But it’s also for the kid who succeeded at something only to find their identity so entwined with the thing they’re good at thatthey start to think it’s all they are or all they could be.

It’s for the kid who doesn’t understand the decisions their parents make and feels abandoned, and the kid whose parents are so consumed with their work that they’ve stopped seeing them and what they’re going through.

It’s for the outwardly awkward kid and the kid whose awkwardness lurks on the inside but is there all the same.

It’s for the kid who’s had to move around a bunch and doesn’t know where to call home anymore. And it’s also for the kid who’s only known one home their whole life and yearns for a change of scenery.

It’s for the kid in a longtime friendship, struggling with new feelings of jealousy or insecurity who doesn’t know how to articulate them and acts out instead.

It’s for anyone who’s ever made a mistake and still needs to apologize. And it’s for the ones who deserved one, years ago, and are still waiting.

It’s for the kids who live in smaller cities that aren’t often represented in books and movies but that thrum with an energy all their own and hold so much meaning for their citizens.

It’s for anyone who’s ever felt a part of something bigger than themself–not just basketball.

And, of course, it’s for those who only sleep in May.*

This book, like the four that came before it, began as something just for me. But starting today and for however long it stays in print, it belongs to the readers who discover it and forge a connection with the printed word on the page or the performances in the audiobooks.

Starting today, it’s no longer mine; it’s yours.

*if you know what this means, you are a true college basketball fan and/or Jon Rothstein

Reflections on 2022 / Looking Ahead to 2023

Ah, 2022, the year we all hoped to return to normalcy only to discover we’re not really there just yet! (Or was that just me?) I’m pretty sure I’m not the only author who was eager to turn to a new calendar year last week, and not just because it meant a shiny new planner (though I am always pretty excited about new planners).  2022 was not full of fantastic publishing news — from Barnes and Noble announcing they would no longer be carrying most middle grade hardcovers to organized book banning effort sweeping the country — but it was all not doom and gloom, upon further reflections.

As I look back over the past year, these were some of the things that brought me either joy or a sense of accomplishment:

  • most of the books I read this year (212 books, according to Goodreads, not including picture books)
  • finally taking a class in picture book writing (my draft is very much still a work in progress, but it’s a start!)
  • my agent making my first foreign rights/translation sale: Things You Can’t Say will be published in Saudi Arabia/Arabic (not sure when, but I will share when I have more info!)
  • my first peek at Free Throws, Friendship, & Other Things We Fouled Up (coming fall 2023 from Chronicle Kids) all laid out like a book — it’s real!
  • hearing back from early readers in the kid-lit world who were willing to read the copyedited manuscript and provide wonderful blurbs (which I’ll share as soon as the book’s up for pre-order)
  • my first in-person school visit since 2019 (kids! how I missed them!)
  • my first in-person talk to adults since 2019 (librarians! same!)
  • my first in-person book festival since 2019 (author friends!!!!)
  • reading a bajillion chapter books and drafting my first attempt at one
  • moderating a panel at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Washington, DC (I was so proud of my debut author panelists!)


Some unrelated to publishing highlights from 2022:

  • hosting my nephew for a week in Cincinnati this summer
  • holding a real, live owl at the Renaissance Faire
  • visiting a new-to-me ballpark, Polar Park in Worcester, home to the WooSox (AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)
  • putting my feet in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans
  • seeing old and dear friends in Denver, CO this fall


What’s coming in 2023:

  • Hopefully I will soon finish the first draft of a new middle grade project. It’s rough and not under contract and it’s changed a lot already from the original conception to where it is right now, but I love these characters and hope that someday it can find some more readers than, well, me and my critique pals. We’ll see!
  • Free Throws, Friendship, & Other Things We Fouled Up, aka my basketball book, aka my ode to all things Cincinnati and college basketball, will be published this fall (date TBD). This book is going to be SO MUCH FUN to promote. No shade to my previous books, but this is my very first book where no one dies, or might die, or died in the past. Which… is not to say it isn’t a Jenn Bishop book; I think readers will discover plenty of commonalities with my other titles. But it’s a distinctly lighter book, thematically, and a bit higher concept. I can’t wait to share more (and more, and more) in the coming year.
  • Maybe my basketball team will start playing better. Maybe… 😉

National Recovery Month Reading List

September marks National Recovery Month, a national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the nation’s strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and communities who make recovery in all its forms possible.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing journalist and author Beth Macy, whose book Dopesick was developed into the acclaimed Hulu miniseries, present at the Mercantile Library here in Cincinnati. Her book, along with several others, was hugely helpful to me as I researched, wrote, and revised Where We Used to Roam. I found the miniseries to be incredibly moving and enraging, and while it’s not an easy watch, I highly recommend it to those who can handle it. I’m eager to read Beth Macy’s follow-up, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Opioid Crisis.

As I listened to her share recovery stories and many of the first-hand connections she made while working on the new book, I found myself remembering a line from the Kirkus review of Where We Used to Roam that, if I’m going to be entirely honest, struck a chord of disappointment when I read it in advance of my book’s publication. Now, I would hardly be alone to want Kirkus to rave about my book, but I felt at the time like the review made it sound like my book was a pamphlet about substance abuse rather than a well-crafted work of fiction. The final lines of the review read: “Though the story ends on a positive note, there is no unrealistically neat happy ending. The author instead offers a brief and engaging introduction to the disease model of addiction and the benefits of medication-assisted treatment.”

While I might have quibbled with the way it was worded, I can now appreciate that the reviewer flagged something that is true about my book. I don’t wish this to be a spoiler alert, so if you haven’t read the book yet and want to, skip down to the bibliography now!

Okay. The truth is that as I continued to research and stay up-to-date on developments in treatment it became very clear to me that MAT, the shorthand for “medication-assisted treatment,” was the gold standard treatment for substance use disorder. As a privileged family, with the ability to research and access the full range of treatments, it only made sense for my protagonist’s family to seek out this treatment for their teenage son after their first efforts with an abstinence-only treatment didn’t succeed. In hindsight, I appreciate the reviewer noting this aspect of Where We Used to Roam for any gatekeepers looking for literature for young readers that reflects the hard truths and latest research about substance use disorder and recovery.

In support of National Recovery Month, I’m sharing a bibliography of recent middle grade titles that deal with substance use and recovery.

Middle Grade Stories about Substance Abuse and Recovery: a reading list

Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Bringing Me Back by Beth Vrabel

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy

The Mending Summer by Ali Standish

The Mostly Honest Truth by Jody J. Little

My Fate, According to the Butterfly by Gail Villanueva

Rule of Threes by Marcy Campbell

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

The True Story of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd

Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee

What About Will by Ellen Hopkins

Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop

The Wild Path by Sarah R. Baughman















The road to recovery can feel lonely, but we’re here to reassure you that you are not alone. In 2020, 40.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder. Your path to recovery may look different from many, but #RecoveryIsPossible & help is available. #RecoveryMonth

ALA Annual 2022

The end of June marked my long-awaited return to the annual American Library Association conference in Washington, DC, for a whirlwind Saturday. As a teen librarian, I was actively involved in YALSA, ultimately serving two years on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, where I made lifelong friendships with voracious readers who, well, just so happened to be fellow librarians. (What a coincidence, right?!)

My very first ALA conference was in Washington, D.C. and so it felt particularly meaningful to make my author debut in the nation’s capital, especially after such a long hiatus from in-person events. I kicked off the day moderating a panel with four incredible 2022 debut authors–Susan Azim Boyer, Dannie M. Olguin, Erik Jon Slangerup, and Lindsay S. Zrull– talking about how to use kid-lit to reach at-risk youth. After doing virtual book events for the past two years, I couldn’t help but notice how palpably different it felt to have a real live audience in the room, especially because the subject matter of our panel led to a conversation tinged with vulnerability and emotion. Wearing my moderator hat, I was admittedly briefly nervous about how quickly we were moving through our prepared questions, but at the midway point, I invited the audience to participate, and in my opinion, that’s when the panel really got going. The exchanges between librarians and these debut authors was so powerful I was honestly almost in tears. It takes so much to be vulnerable on a stage, especially when, for many of them, it was their first time appearing in public as authors. I was truly in awe and so proud of how they did! (A mama bear moment, indeed.)

Now, as a teen librarian, the ALA exhibit halls were always a highlight. I stalked those exhibit halls, eager to snag ARCs of the hottest books and my patrons’ favorite authors (and, okay, some of mine too!). But as an author this time around, the exhibit halls served a different purpose. I was not trying to go home with 50+ ARCs as in years past (ouch, my shoulders!) but eager to see familiar faces behind booths. It was such a treat to stop by the booths of my three publishers– Chronicle, the home of my next book (coming in fall 2023), Simon & Schuster, home to Where We Used to Roam and Things You Can’t Say, and Penguin Random House, which published The Distance to Home and 14 Hollow Road. I saw three of my former editors, met folks from the marketing and school and library teams, chatted with friends from VCFA and my librarian days, and even ran into an old friend from middle school who works in children’s publishing!

While I managed to control myself on the exhibit floor, I didn’t exactly go home empty-handed. I picked up enough books to fill out my small tote. And after seeing R.L. Stine speak in one of the big ballrooms upstairs, my day at ALA was complete. (Though I hoped to attend a publishing event at 9 pm, my conference stamina isn’t what it once was, and I was in my hotel bed watching baseball by 8 pm.)

All in all, it was a whirlwind day that reminded me how much I’ve missed the past few years. Large gatherings like this serve a distinct purpose. They also fuel my sense of purpose. It was so meaningful to connect with librarians. To remember how much they have authors’ back and vice versa. And to be reminded of the immense power books have in connecting people.

Signed books make wonderful holiday gifts


I’d love to help make the holiday special for anyone in your life who would love a signed and/or personalized copy of one my books. Please message me (jenn@jennbishop.com) and I will share instructions.

Coming in fall 2023 . . .

. . . my fifth middle grade novel! It’s tentatively titled Chili & Spaghetti and Other Dynamic Duos and will be published by Chronicle.

Can’t wait to share more in the coming months!!

Reflections on 5 years of being an author – Happy 5th birthday, The Distance to Home

This week, five years ago, my debut middle grade novel The Distance to Home was published and I crossed over from being a “writer” to being an “author.” It’s been a wild ride so far, to say the least. I’m grateful to have published three more books for young readers in the years since, with some news to share about another sometime soon.

Suffice it to say that traditional publishing is not for the faint of heart. It’s a business that functions a lot less like other businesses and a lot more like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what will stick and also some of the spaghetti is gluten-free and some of it is very fine Italian pasta and some of it is made out of chickpeas, you know? (Not saying which pasta = my books but you get the picture.)

No two books are really alike and reading experiences are so subjective and the market is always changing. But . . . that’s how just it is and that’s why us authors are calloused from all that happens along the way. Or at least, that’s how I explained it to an aspiring author I talked with the other day when I popped into my local indie bookstore.

There are things I could only dream about that have happened to my books or are soon to happen (being on the front of a Scholastic book club flyer! having books selected for Junior Library Guild! being on state reading award lists! having an audiobook recorded of one of my books). As well as others I’m still waiting for and may very well never achieve (writing a NYTimes bestseller, having one of my books made into a movie or TV show, winning a Newbery). A girl can dream.

And yet, what’s mattered the most–both to me and I’d wager many other middle grade authors–is the impact of my books on readers. Knowing that my books are out in the world being read and even cherished by kids I will never meet or know? My books living lives of their own in libraries and bookstores, in people’s homes?

It’s the actual coolest. A huge honor I don’t take for granted, trust me.

All of this is to say, Happy 5th Birthday, The Distance to Home. I can now enroll you in kindergarten, but I won’t because you’re a book.

Congrats to the Where We Used to Roam Preorder Giveaway Winners

Thank you so much to everyone who preordered Where We Used to Roam or requested your library to purchase a copy. I’ve randomly selected 5 entrants for a signed book of their choice, and one grand prize winner. I’ve notified all of the winners by email, but I’m a little worried my email might get caught in spam filters, so if you see your name below, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly (jenn@jennbishop.com).

Signed book of your choice winners: Marisol D., Chelsea H., Karsyn R., Shuk M. N., and Katie H.

Grand prize winner: Denise S.

Congratulations again, and thank you for all of the support. Happy reading!

Where We Used to Roam Preorder Giveaway

Where We Used to Roam will be published on March 23rd, 2021, but did you know you can preorder it right now?

Preordering a book helps authors because by preordering a book, you’re telling the bookstore, hey, people want this book! Which makes them more likely to stock more copies of the book, which means more people can see it and buy it. Preorders also help bookstores. And right now indie bookstores need a lot of help to survive what’s likely to be a challenging winter.

Because the pandemic has affected the ease of travel and events, I know I am not going to be able to see that many readers in person for the foreseeable future. (Sad face!) So I want to give my readers something special. For everyone who preorders, I will send a signed bookplate and bookmark. And everyone who enters the giveaway will have a chance at prizes — there’s both the Grand Prize Pack (everything pictured above, minus the flowers) and other opportunities to win signed books.


The Rules

  1. To enter, preorder Where We Used to Roam and make sure to save a receipt. You can also enter by requesting your local library to purchase a copy of Where We Used to Roam.
  2. Then, click here. The Google form will collect your name, email address, and any personalization details. You will also need to upload a photo or screenshot of your receipt/proof of purchase.


Everyone who enters will receive:

  • Signed Where We Used to Roam bookmark
  • A personalized signed bookplate


One lucky winner, picked at random, will receive the Where We Used to Roam Grand Prize Pack, including:

  • Bison stuffed animal
  • My Neighbor Totoro sketchbook
  • Colorful markers
  • Personalized, signed copies of The Distance to Home, 14 Hollow Road, and Things You Can’t Say


Five lucky winners, picked at random, will receive:

  • A personalized, signed book of your choice: The Distance to Home, 14 Hollow Road, or Things You Can’t Say


US and Canada only. Entries must be received by March 22, 2021 at midnight to qualify.


If possible, please pre-order from your local indie bookstore. They need our support now more than ever. <3