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Cindy Baldwin Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Where the Watermelons Grow (2018)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Beginners Welcome (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Cindy Baldwin is a poet, essayist, and fiction author best known for writing middle-grade fiction. She was born in North Carolina but moved to the West Coast and now lives with her husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon. Given that she grew up in Durham, she set her first novel in Maryville, Bertie County, a small town very similar to her own hometown. With regard to her interest in authorship, Baldwin has said that she always loved reading. While she was in middle school she often had a book under her bathroom sink that she would read and reread while brushing her teeth or fixing her hair. She often dreamed of one day writing a better novel than what she was reading. Cindy Baldwin’s debut novel “Where the Watermelons Grow” was published in 2018 and went on to become Bank Street Best Book of 2019, Indie Next Pick, Indies Introduce title, Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club selection and also received a ton of starred reviews. Baldwin’s second novel “Beginners Welcome” was published in 2020.

Just like many authors, Cindy Baldwin had a torturous journey in her quest to become a published author. In fact, her debut novel “Where the Watermelons Grow” was the fifth manuscript she ever wrote and the third that she had submitted to agents. Her second novel was particularly frustrating as she had queried a lot of agents and had more than 100 rejections and a lot of near misses but ultimately no takers. By the time she canned the manuscript, she was so depressed and was almost thinking that she did not have what it takes to become a professional author. However, since she had already written the manuscript for Where the Watermelons Grow and had gotten some positive feedback, she decided to revise it and started querying in 2016. A fortnight after submitting the manuscript to the “Twitter Pitch Party” that was a platform created to put the works of marginalized authors into the spotlight, she had her first breakthrough. Baldwin had previously entered many contests before without much success but this was different. Within days of her submission, her phone blew up as she got a ton of editor and agent requests. Less than a week afterward, she had several offers but ultimately stuck with her agent Elizabeth Harding who finally got the book published with Harper Collins. She still goes giddy when she remembers how she went from more than 100 rejections to multiple stellar offers.

The inspiration for Cindy Baldwin’s debut novel “Where the Watermelons Grow” came from a pretty innocuous source. She was singing “Down by The Bay” to her then five-year-old daughter and was fascinated by the story of a child that had run away from home due to the distress caused by her mother’s mental illness. The story spoke to her deepest insecurities since she is a disabled parent. She thus set out to write a disability positive novel in which a child comes to the realization that just because a parent may be disabled does not mean that they cannot have a positive, loving and happy family life. As a person that had read so much about magical cures growing up, Baldwin wanted to assert that disability is not necessarily something to be cured or fixed but rather a part of who someone is. As a disabled author and reader, Baldwin feels it is critical to write stories that capture the difficulties and complexities of disability in an honest manner. However, she is keen not to paint disability as inspiration porn or incompatible with happiness. With her second novel “Beginner’s Welcome,” Cindy writes on similar themes and the lead character is also similar to that of the debut. She is a preteen girl that deals with the complexities of a magic-infused contemporary setting, the daughter/mother relationship and a plotline that has her discovering the essence of family and the importance of community. Baldwin cites her biggest influences for her novels as Kate Dicamillo, Lois Lowry, and Sharon Creech. This is because she has always loved middle-grade stories that are told in hope-filled, life-affirming and gentle ways, which is what these authors tend to do.

Baldwin’s debut novel “Where the Watermelons Grow” opens to Della Kelly the lead feeling as if the weight of the world has been thrust on her shoulders. She has a schizophrenic mom who is obsessive about her children’s safety, about cleaning her house and oftentimes she hears voices in her head. Her mother had not always been that way as the condition was triggered when she gave birth to Della and hence she feels responsible for her being that way. When the condition flares up and her mother goes on a downward spiral, she feels that she has to do something to fix her. But nothing seems to work and she is left frustrated. They live in the small town of Maryville in North Carolina and it is a small community where everyone is known to everyone. Teaming up with her father, Della has been trying to keep her mother’s deterioration a secret but things are getting worse and they soon realize that they have to get help. But even as she tries to fix her mother, she does not realize that she also needs some help. It is an amazing novel of family, love, and sacrifice.

Cindy Baldwin’s “Beginners Welcome” is the story of Annie Lee who is struggling with the loss of her father. It is nearly three months since the death of her father but she still believes he is leaving the record player on and not flushing his whiskers out of the sink in the morning. She does not believe in ghosts and does not know what to make of recent happenings. It does not help that they do not have money for basic expenses even though her mother works around the clock. Annie’s life is complicated by the fact that she has no friends and she cannot find anyone to sit with at lunch. But then she meets Mitch, a tough skater girl who might need a friend. But then again, given what she has gone through, Annie is not ready to make a friend as she is afraid of losing a loved one again. Sneaking out of her home one day, she rides into town where she bumps into an elderly pianist whose music is nothing short of magical. Annie begs him for lessons and he agrees but with the condition that she starts letting people into her life. But soon after Ray disappears and Annie has the dilemma of going back to not getting attached to anyone or admitting how much she cares and needs her friends.

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