Ali Terese writes funny and heartfelt middle grade and YA stories. FREE PERIOD is her debut novel. It is a story of friendship and period equity complete with laugh-out-loud shenanigans, delightfully disgusting desserts, and some world-changing crafts. Visit Ali online for book bonuses, giveaways, and resources like discussion guides, recipes, craftivism projects, and more at aliterese.com.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No, I didn’t even want to be a reader! I declined to learn and ended up in what was then called “remedial reading” in elementary school. In middle school, I would take my glasses off during grammar lessons so whatever “rules” the teacher was writing on the board didn’t distract me from day-dreaming. Not recommended! It wasn’t until I found stories I loved that I realized books were a wonderful place to lose myself, to process my own feelings by following a character’s journey, and to belly laugh, gasp in horror, and cry my eyes out. Now I read a book or two a week and write two to three a year. My goal as a writer is to give my fellow readers the same joy books (eventually) gave me—to forget about our problems for a few hours and have a good time wondering how these characters are going to figure out their own messy lives.
I hope the number one takeaway is fun! After that, one of the themes in my stories is that we can work with people who are different from us to create change and that our unique contributions together can make something better than we could have ever achieved alone.
My first favorite middle grade book was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It is a mystery that made me forget everything else going on in the world while I was reading. I was so intent on figuring out the puzzle that I didn’t even realize how invested I’d become in the characters until I found myself bawling like a baby at the end. I also loved Judy Blume, and still do as a grown-up! It is amazing to see a whole new generation of readers discovering the incredible voice and breathtaking honesty of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
I’m lucky to read a lot of current middle grade books. Some recent favorites are Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt, Sincerely Sicily by Tamika Burgess, Tethered to Other Stars by Elisa Stone Leahy, The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura by Waka T. Brown, and Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea. I could easily list 20 more titles, though, so I’ll be sharing more great reads on this website, on my Instagram, and in my quarterly newsletter. Also, I haven’t read these books yet, but I am super excited to get my copies of Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans by Isi Hendrix, Meet Me on Mercer Street by Booki Vivat, The Equinox Test by Liz Montague, and The Liars Society by Alyson Gerber. Ah! Middle grade books are the best! Farts, feelings, and fun!!!
Lunch! Rectangle cafeteria pizza and underdone cookies for life.
My perm. My hair looked like some poor poodle got its bangs—and only its bangs—caught in an electrical storm.
Complaining, swimming but not by choice (see my first hobby), watching TV while talking on the phone with friends, not going outside, cross stitch, eating chips, and drinking discount soda.
Well reading for one, much to my 5-year-old self’s horror I’m sure. I also bake, but I’m not super into measuring so results are varied and interesting. I love to crochet everything from blankets to toys for family and friends. Searching for shells and sea glass is my favorite way to spend a summer day. I still love eating chips and complaining!
The story started with Helen and Gracie, two chaos monsters who are besties but facing big changes at the end of middle school, and the question of how our friendships can evolve and even get stronger rather than falling apart when we’re challenged. At the same time I was trying to figure out how to talk about periods in a positive way as a parent when I had found them pretty awful in my own childhood. What I kept coming back to was friendship, starting in middle school and going for decades at this point. We’ve asked each other Is this normal? Do you have an extra pad? Can you see my pad? If I wear this long t-shirt so no one can see my pad will everyone know I’m wearing it because I have my period in the first place?!?! Oh no are those are ruined? What did your doctor say? Our friends don’t have to have all the answers and often we can’t fix things for each other, but just going through a common experience together and supporting one another can turn something that seems impossible into a part of life you can not only survive, but even laugh at. Because I’m a writer, I decided to work through those feelings in 60,000 words instead of a simple conversation.
Impossible question LOL I got Helen when I took the Team Tampon Character Quiz, but in my witchy heart I’d love to be Aunt Carmella.
Yes! My family and I made them all, as well as the other crafts discussed in the book, and devoured the sweets immediately! They are delicious and delightfully disgusting. I hope reading about them made you laugh and broke the ice a bit on a topic that can sometimes be difficult to discuss. You can check out the recipe for Maxi-Grahams here now. Come back closer to launch for more of Gracie’s recipes on the Resources page!
I plan to give away a few crochet Cuterus Uteruses as part of FREE PERIOD’s publication celebration, but why get one when you can make one! You can find the pattern here. All you need is some yarn, a crochet hook, a stitch marker, filling, fabric glue, and googly eyes. I crocheted my first uterus 20 years ago for a friend—don’t let anyone tell you that your weird hobbies won’t amount to anything—and am a crafting disaster so if I can do it, anyone can! Check back on the Resources page closer to launch for more of Isabella’s crochet patterns and lots of other crafts and activities from the world of FREE PERIOD.
It really depends, which I know is a frustrating answer. Students and their allies have been working so hard to achieve menstrual equity for years and have made incredible strides at the local and state levels in some areas. Unfortunately, the United States does not have a national menstrual or period equity policy to cover everyone. At the time I’m writing this answer, there is a federal bill introduced in the United States Congress called the Menstrual Equity for All Act that seeks “a whole-of-government approach to eradicate period poverty and achieve menstrual equity,” including “giv[ing] states the option to use federal grant funds to provide students in elementary and secondary schools with free menstrual products.” You can read the bill here. You can read a press release from one of the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Representative Grace Meng of New York’s 6th Congressional District, here. What does that mean for you? Paying attention and talking to your friends about what is actually available, asking questions of the administrators and others in charge of your bathrooms, and maybe even research! Until there are national requirements and resources, we’re left with a patchwork of state, county, municipal, school district, and sometimes even school building policies and funding that mean whether pads are available depends on where you live. There are organizations advocating for change at all levels of government who you may end up wanting to partner with, but the simplest place to start could be asking your school building’s administer why there aren’t period products stocked in bathrooms at no additional cost for all students who menstruate and what they can do to change that. I’ll be sharing more about action on this on the Resources page before FREE PERIOD launches in Spring 2024.