2017 was a difficult year for so many people. For me personally? It was beautiful and exhausting and stressful and wonderful all mixed together. On some days, I watched my dreams come true. On other days, it felt like my nightmares were taking over. Everything felt amplified and loud, for better or worse.

But 2017 also held the greatest career moments of my life so far. I have so much to be thankful for, and so many people to thank. Starfish is a real hold-in-your-hands book, and I am forever grateful to all the people behind the scenes who helped make my childhood dream a reality. Throughout 2017, I’ve watched this story morph and shape into the book it is today, and I’ve been so unbelievably lucky to have the support of the incredible team at Simon Pulse, my superhero agent, and the wonderful readers who’ve been cheering Kiko along from the start. Between the cover reveal, the arrival of ARCs, the two starred reviews, the Junior Library Guild Selection, and the announcement that Starfish is a 2018 YALSA’s Morris Award Finalist, it has been a year of high points in my writing career. Seeing the love and enthusiasm for this story has made it a high point in my personal life, too.

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A few weeks ago, the New York Public Library named STARFISH one of the Best Books for Teens of 2017. Yesterday, STARFISH was named a YALSA 2018 Morris Award Finalist.

Honored is an understatement. I can’t believe my quiet little book is in a category with authors and novels I’ve looked up to so much for the past year. And knowing this will help get STARFISH into the hands of teen readers who need it most is an overwhelming feeling.

A little over two years ago, I wrote an ownvoices story about a biracial teen living with social anxiety and trying to heal after years of abuse. I knew what a book like this would have meant to me as a teenager, and I wanted that so much for people going through similar experiences. And still, like many writers, I worried I’d never be published. I worried this story would be too quiet. I worried people wouldn’t get it, or that I would hear the same words I’ve heard so many times in my life: Your story shouldn’t be told. Your voice doesn’t matter.

Today, I am overflowing with gratitude, joy, and peace.

Thank you to everyone who believed in this book. Thank you to every reader who has connected with Kiko, and followed along on her journey. Thank you to those who saw the heart of this story, and knew what it would mean to readers who desperately need to see themselves represented.

And to every writer out there wondering if there’s room on the shelves for the book of your heart—your story is important. Your voice matters. And there are people who need your words.

Keep writing.

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As you probably know, Kiko is an artist, and most of the chapters in STARFISH end with a description of one of her drawings or paintings. You might also know that I love art and contests, so what better way to celebrate the release of this book than to combine the two?


A signed, personalized copy of STARFISH, book swag, and a handwritten letter from yours truly! I’ll be giving out five of these, and will be choosing winners based on my favorite entries.


  • ★ Create a piece of artwork based off of one of Kiko’s drawings or paintings (your choice!) and send an image of the artwork to akemidawnbowman [at] gmail [dot] com by December 31st, 2017.
  • ★ This contest is open internationally!
  • ★ You can use pencil, paint, digital, typography, or anything you want, really. It can include the quote, or not include the quote. It just needs to be your interpretation of Kiko’s art! Please send either a scanned image or good quality photo to the email address above.
  • ★ Even if you don’t include the quote in your actual artwork, please make sure you include it in the email!
  • ★ Please also be aware that I will be posting all of the images on my website and sharing them on social media to boost the contest and show off your amazing talent. Please only enter this contest if you’re okay with your work being shared! Note: I won’t use your real name when sharing/posting on my accounts in an effort to keep anonymity for those who don’t wish to be public, but if you’d like to take credit for your work, you’re more than welcome to share it yourself on social media!
  • ★ If you don’t have your own copy of STARFISH to read the quotes, here are some ways to get them:
    • ★ Request the book from your local library, if you have one.
    • ★ Riveted currently has an extended 100 page excerpt of STARFISH available on their website (though you’ll have to act fast on this one, as it ends on October 16th, 2017!)
    • ★ I’ll also post artwork as they’re sent to me, and they’ll be organized by quote. Feel free to browse through them to find the one you like best!
  • ★ Winners will be announced on my website and through social media during the first week of January 2018. Winners will also receive an email requesting a shipping address. Please respond within 7 days of receiving this email, so that I can get your prizes mailed out as quickly as possible!
  • ★ And finally, please no offensive or graphic images. I won’t post anything that’s not appropriate for the age range the book is meant for, so please keep that in mind when submitting.

And that’s it! I hope you all have fun with this one, and I’m so looking forward to seeing your artwork. Happy creating and good luck!

Click below to see all the entries!

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STARFISH had its book birthday last Tuesday, and guess who forgot to write an official blog post about it? My notifications kept me busy most of the day, and I was so caught up in thanking everyone for celebrating the release day that I sort of forget to make an announcement myself. So, a few days late, but I am honored and grateful and so very proud to see STARFISH out in the world and finding the readers who need it most. And if you spot it out in the wild, send pictures! Seeing this book on shelves brings actual rays of sunshine into my life.

Here’s a photo of me celebrating launch day with my editor, Jennifer Ung, and agent, Penny Moore, who I finally got to meet in person. It was the most perfect day, and my heart is still very, very full.

And to all the readers out there who are so supportive and enthusiastic about this book that is so many pieces of my heart: Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. <3

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