word craft


Avi’s 2024 Summer Blog Series

Steve Sheinkin

From Avi: As I did in the sum­mer of 2023 and the sum­mer of 2022, I’ve invit­ed 13 admired mid­dle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tues­day to see who has answered these two ques­tions we’re fre­quent­ly asked by read­ers. You should have a list of ter­rif­ic books to read and share by the end of the sum­mer … along with new authors to follow!

Where did you get your idea for a specific book of yours?

The Bletchley Riddle

Secret codes — that was the spark for my upcom­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive nov­el, The Bletch­ley Rid­dle. I’ve always been drawn to the hid­den world of codes and ciphers, fas­ci­nat­ed by the ways quirky code­break­ers have impact­ed major moments in his­to­ry. For years it’s been a top­ic I was deter­mined to “do some­thing” with at some point. I fig­ured it’d be nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion, like most of my books.

But then, a few years ago, the great young adult nov­el­ist Ruta Sepetys and I start­ed bat­ting around the idea of writ­ing a book togeth­er. The idea of set­ting a sto­ry at Bletch­ley Park — Great Britain’s top secret code­break­ing cen­ter dur­ing World War II — real­ly grabbed both of us. We’re a cou­ple of research nerds, and proud of it! We had an amaz­ing amount of fun learn­ing about this Won­ka-like code­break­ing fac­to­ry, explor­ing hid­den his­to­ry, cre­at­ing teenage char­ac­ters, and craft­ing a mys­tery full of puz­zles and hid­den history. 

What’s your best writing advice for young writers?

To con­tin­ue what I was say­ing above — let curios­i­ty be your guide. Peo­ple often say you should “write what you know.” Yeah, maybe. I think it’s more impor­tant to focus on some­thing that fas­ci­nates you, some­thing that real­ly fires your curios­i­ty. Of course you have to be will­ing to do a bit of research along the way.

It’s like cook­ing — they say you can “taste the love” a cook puts into their food. That’s def­i­nite­ly true of writ­ing. You can tell if a writer was ful­ly engaged, if they were hav­ing fun as they were writ­ing. Sure, in school it’s not always pos­si­ble to pick your own sub­jects for writ­ing assign­ments. But if we’re talk­ing about some­thing you actu­al­ly want to write, let it be some­thing you’re obsessed with, some­thing you just can’t wait to tell oth­er peo­ple about. What if it’s some­thing weird or obscure? Even bet­ter! If you’re gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed, you can get read­ers into it too, and your love of the sto­ry will come across in your writing


Avail­able Oct 8, 2024,
co-authored with Ruta Sepetys:

The Bletch­ley Riddle

Sum­mer, 1940. Nine­teen-year-old Jakob Novis and his quirky younger sis­ter Lizzie share a love of rid­dles and puz­zles. And now they’re liv­ing inside of one. The quar­rel­some sib­lings find them­selves amidst one of the great­est secrets of World War II—Britain’s eccen­tric code­break­ing fac­to­ry at Bletch­ley Park. As Jakob joins Bletchley’s top minds to crack the Naz­i’s Enig­ma cipher, four­teen-year-old Lizzie embarks on a mis­sion to solve the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of their moth­er.

The Bat­tle of Britain rages and Hitler’s inva­sion creeps clos­er. And at the same time, baf­fling mes­sages and codes arrive on their doorstep while a men­ac­ing inspec­tor lurks out­side the gates of the Bletch­ley man­sion. Are the mes­sages tru­ly for them, or are they a trap? Could the rid­dles of Enig­ma and their moth­er’s dis­ap­pear­ance be some­how con­nect­ed? Jakob and Lizzie must find a way to work togeth­er as they race to deci­pher clues which unrav­el a shock­ing puz­zle that presents the ulti­mate chal­lenge: How long must a secret be kept?

1 thought on “Summer Blog Series: Steve Sheinkin”

  1. What a plea­sure it is to read such a great blog from so many authors that I admire. Thank you one and all for your ter­rif­ic writ­ing advice. Edie Pagliasotti


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