Monday’s Friend: Iva Valentino

Today I’m pleased to have the lovely Iva Valentino as my guest on the blog, to tell us all about her new middle-grade book. Welcome, Iva!

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

IV: I’ve loved writing stories since I was a kid. One of the first stories I remember writing was about my brother’s pet rat snake, Albini. I was about ten years old. Albini had gone missing in real life, and I concocted an elaborate holiday adventure for him involving Rambo, MacGyver, the members of the Grateful Dead, and of course, Santa. (Albini was thankfully found living behind the sofa, very skinny but apparently doing fine on bug cuisine.) Anyhoo… many, many stories followed this one!

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

IV: I’ve always been a voracious reader! I think that my love of reading has really influenced my love of writing. I grew up on The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins books. I always liked books that were light-hearted and funny. One of my goals for my books is to make my readers laugh!

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

IvaIV: Write something EVERY day if you can! Even if you don’t feel like it. Just write!

SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

IV: I am most definitely a planner. No pantsing for me, please! I like to sit down and really plot out a book ahead of time. I like to know exactly where I’m going so that I’m not stuck in the middle of the book, realizing that I’ve headed off into La La Land. This doesn’t mean that my characters can’t do wacky things that I hadn’t quite planned for them… they surprise me quite a bit!

SJT: I have exactly the same approach! Tell us about your latest release, and where we can buy it.

IV: Black Cats and Ballet Slippers is a humorous middle grade chapter book. Gemma Mayfield, the main character, is a ballerina and middle school student. She is convinced her teacher is a witch. After her crush, Trevor, has a spell cast upon him, Gemma embarks on a mission to save Middleton Middle School from witchcraft!

MuseItUp Publishing:

SJT: You love dancing and yoga, according to your website. Do these activities influence your writing at all?

IV: Yes, for sure! In Black Cats and Ballet Slippers, Gemma is a ballet dancer. Ballet plays a big part in her solving the mystery of witchcraft at her middle school. Gemma’s mom loves yoga, and has taught her a thing or two. Gemma tries to use yoga breathing techniques, but finds out that she sometimes sounds like Darth Vader!

SJT: Your bio also says you like to travel. Tell us about your favourite places you’ve visited.

IV: My favorite place to visit is Croatia. My entire family is Croatian and I try to visit each summer. Pula is by the coast, and has the most beautiful beaches! Other places that I’ve really enjoyed visiting are Peru, Paris, Copenhagen, and the Caribbean.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

IV: I’m working on a sequel for Black Cats and Ballet Slippers. Gemma and the other characters will be back, along with some new ones. I just finished the rough draft, and am taking a break before jumping into the revision process!

Author Bio:

Iva Valentino lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog, Lupo. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Education. She loves living year-round in the warm desert.

Iva spent many years as a middle school teacher, where she enjoyed doing fun science experiments with her students. She currently works as a science editor at an educational publishing company. She loves travel, yoga, and photography. There is nothing that brings her more happiness than a good dance class!

black catsYou can visit Iva at the following sites:





Okay, so something REALLY strange is going on. Boys are from a different planet, but right now a few of them at Middleton are acting like they’re from a different universe. (Wait. Does this make sense? Is there more than one universe? Ugh. Maybe I should have paid more attention last year in Astronomy.)

So, by the time I got to Ms. Pruett’s class, I had already worked myself into a super version of “I Don’t Wanna Go To Class Because I’m Creeped Out!” mode. I walked into the Science Laboratory, and I swear I felt the cold of Building 400 smack me right in the face. I’m not kidding.

Of course Ms. Pruett was at the door, acting like her sweet old lady self (ha ha, I know better), and was welcoming all the kids into the classroom. I just kept my head down and muttered a hello as I passed. Staying below the radar was the goal. Then I sat down at my lab table and shivered a bit.

Joey sat down at the table just a second later. Normally he is really loud and obnoxious, cracking jokes, and calling to the other Soccer Jocks across the room. Today he was quiet.

“Hey,” I said, trying to be friendly. I thought maybe we could commiserate on us both having spells cast on us. Joey responded with a “hey” but didn’t say much else. Hello? Was this the Joey I knew?

“So, Joey, are you feeling okay?” I asked. “You know, after yesterday…”

Joey didn’t say anything, but began writing on a piece of paper. He folded up the piece of paper and passed it to me. I gave him a questioning look. He gave me a weird look back that I couldn’t decipher. The note was as follows:

     Hey Gemma,

     Sorry I gave you a hard time yesterday about the “Cute Boy” list. It was kind of rude of me.


That’s when it hit me that Joey hadn’t recovered from Ms. Pruett’s spell. For me it was just temporary, like a few minutes. But Joey was acting weird. It had to be the spell.

“Um, thanks,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.” I then started taking out all my school stuff so that I could look busy and not have any more awkward moments with Joey until he felt better. He was taking longer to recuperate.

After class I headed straight down toward the lunchroom. On the way there, I saw Trevor going in the opposite direction past me. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Hi Trevor!” (with a big smile and enthusiasm)

Trevor: “Oh, hi Gemma.” (with zombie-like attitude)

Me: “Okay, have a good lunch!”

Trevor: “Okay, thanks. Bye.”

I wondered where he was going, in the opposite direction from the lunch room when it was lunchtime. It took me another couple of moments to realize that the ONLY classroom in that part of campus was Ms. Pruett’s room. He was headed back toward Building 400!

Yikes! I turned myself around in mid-stride and turned back the way I came. I knew there was no way possible that Trevor would be going to Ms. Pruett’s. Why would anyone in their right mind be going there by themselves?

I didn’t want Trevor to think I was stalking him, because of course I would never do that. But just in case that’s what it appeared to be, I used as much stealth as possible. I walked in the shadows and stopped to peek out behind bushes and building walls. I saw him up ahead…just before he ENTERED MS. PRUETT’S CLASSROOM.

My mouth fell open, and I just sort of stared at the door for a while.

Weird things are going on here at Middleton. And I think Ms. Pruett’s behind it all!




1 comment so far

  1. Iva Valentino on

    Thank you so much for hosting me today!

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