Spotlights on five children's and YA authors and one illustrator who made notable debuts this spring

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: Thanhha Lai

When Thanhha Lai decided to fictionalize the story of her own early life in Vietnam and immigration to Alabama after the war, she wrote her novel Inside Out & Back Again (HarperCollins, Feb.) in six months. "It was shockingly easy to write," she recalls. "Because it is my story and I'd already been processing it for years and years."

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: Matthew Myers

All Matthew Myers had to do to get the attention of Writers House agent Steven Malk was send him a link to his Web site. ("Paintings so good you'd swear he's dead," the splash page says.) In another sense, though, he'd been preparing for the introduction for years.

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: Jenny Hubbard

Novelist, playwright, stage actor: when it comes to arts and letters, Jenny Hubbard is something of a triple threat. And that doesn't even take into account her 17 years as an English teacher, both at the college level and at an all-boys boarding school, one similar to the fictional Birch School of her first novel, Paper Covers Rock (Delacorte, June).

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: Veronica Roth
On a long drive from her home near Chicago to Carleton College in Minnesota—which she attended as a freshman before transferring to Northwestern—Veronica Roth saw on a billboard an image of a person leaping off a building.

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: Cathleen Daly

Cathleen Daly has been writing since she was a kid. "In fourth grade, I used to get blank journals," she says. "One of my best friends and I used to write books together in the library. I write poetry, too. It's become a career only more recently."

Spring 2011 Flying Starts: John Corey Whaley

In late 2005, on his drive home from Louisiana Tech University, John Corey Whaley heard a story on NPR about singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Stevens traveled to a small town where an ivory-billed woodpecker, previously thought extinct, possibly appeared and thousands of people flocked in to see it. Like his main character, Cullen Witter, in his YA novel Where Things Come Back (Atheneum, May), Whaley had a history of coming up with possible titles that he developed to varying degrees.