Sweet Sixteener Holly VanDyne had the opportunity to speak with Fearless Fifteener Miriam Spitzer Franklin about her debut MG contemporary novel, EXTRAORDINARY (May 5, 2015 from Sky Pony Press).
Miriam Spitzer Franklin is a former elementary and middle school teacher who currently teaches homeschooled students and is a writer-in-residence with the Charlotte Arts & Science Council. Other jobs she has held include working as a frazzled and unorganized waitress at a number of restaurants, driving the Zamboni and working the skate counter at the ice skating rink, teaching ice skating lessons, and owning a toy and gift store with her husband, Scott. Miriam lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ten-year-old Pansy Smith wants to become an extraordinary friend to make up for all the mistakes she’s made in the past….and she has only 14.5 weeks to reach her goal.
When Pansy chickens out of going to sleepaway camp with Anna, she realizes she’s let her best friend down one time too many. Anna is right; Pansy has broken a lot of promises. But Anna suffers a brain injury at camp, and Pansy worries that she’ll never be able to make things right between them, or even worse, that Anna will never be the same again. When she hears that Anna is going to have brain surgery in 14 weeks that might cure her, Pansy knows she’s been given the chance she’s been waiting for – a chance to get Anna back, by finally facing her fears and becoming extraordinary, the kind of best friend Anna deserves.
Holly: Pansy has such a great voice! Did you find it hard to channel your inner fifth grader?
Miriam: I didn’t have any trouble getting into the mind of a fifth grader as I feel that time in my life is more vivid than my teenage years, which were basically a blur. I guess I still think like a kid in many ways! Also, I taught fifth grade for nine years so I know what kids are like at that age.
Holly: I have a special place in my heart for books dealing with disabilities. Was there much research involved to flesh out Anna’s medical condition?
Miriam: It didn’t involve any research because the story was based on a niece who suffered a brain injury. She was a special girl who showed me a different way of viewing the world. I can still picture her clearly even though she passed away eight years ago.
Holly: What was your inspiration to write EXTRAORDINARY?
Miriam: I was inspired to write about Anna because she was a part of my life and touched my heart in many ways. As difficult as it must have been for her family to accept the change after her brain damage at age two, I wondered how a ten-year-old would react if it happened to her best friend. Pansy’s character was inspired from working with a diverse group of students. There are always those that get noticed for being the smartest, the most athletic, the most talented, or the ones who are natural leaders. But there are also those children who persevere despite challenges, always accept the differences in others, and are full of spirit and heart. I wanted to write about a girl who considered herself average, and didn’t realize her own gifts that made her extraordinary.
Holly: What has been your favorite part of the publishing process?
Miriam: Hmmmm….well, after years of rejections, I have to say my favorite part was actually receiving a publishing contract and the joy from holding my book for the first time!
Lightning Round Questions:
Music to write by?
The Beatles are my all-time favorite, but most of the time I don’t listen to music while writing.
Outline or no outline?
No outline. (probably the reason I had to revise so many times!)
Favorite writing snack?
Diet Coke with lime and peanut butter Good to Go bars.
What were you reading in fifth grade?
My favorite book was ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. I also loved anything by Judy Blume.
Is this the first book you’ve written?
More like the seventh or eighth.
Favorite place to write?
At my computer. It’s next to a window that looks out on trees in my backyard, so everything is green and peaceful and gives me something to stare at when I’m trying to figure out how to write/rewrite a scene!
In addition to being a writer, Holly VanDyne is also a librarian, computer and art teacher at a small, private school in the middle of Ohio where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Her MG novel, THE INHABITANT OF ALEXIS O’RILEY, was previously scheduled for publication with Egmont USA and is currently in search of a new publishing home.