Welcome Nancy J. Cavanaugh, Author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

Welcome to the blog, Nancy! My daughter gobbled up Ratchet in an afternoon, so I’m excited to learn more about you and your writing process, inspiration and tips!


 Nancy J. Cavanaugh lives in Florida with her husband and her daughter. She spends her summers eating pizza in her former hometown of Chicago. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is her first book, but she has been writing for almost twenty years.
Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together. In addition to her mechanic’s hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a school library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say “I’m working” when reading middle grade novels. She hasn’t read an adult book in years.
Look for her second book ALWAYS, ABIGAIL also published by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky in Fall 2014. The entire story is told in lists, letters, and writing assignments, in which a girl named Abigail uses her language arts class’s Friendly Letter Project to cope with the worst school year ever – and in the process turns it into the best year ever.

Nancy on Facebook
Nancy on Twitter

Me:  Tell us about finding inspiration for your stories. Is it in everyday situations, TV shows, movies, people stalking?

Nancy:   I find inspiration everywhere. I think that’s what makes me want to write. I go through life noticing ideas all over the place. And yes, I do have to admit to getting some of my best ideas from television. As a former teacher and a parent of an elementary-age child, I don’t always like to admit that TV can spark a lot of creative ideas.

Me:  I can relate to that. Movies are inspirational for me. When your book arrived, my daughter read it in a day.  She wants to know if she can be in the movie should your book become a movie.

Nancy:  It’s funny you should ask about the movie. When my brother finished reading RATCHET, he called me right way to say that he thought it would make a perfect Hallmark movie. As far as who gets to play Ratchet, your daughter might have to fight with my daughter over the part. My daughter is ten and thinks she’d be perfect for the leading role.

Me:  I think she’d be okay with a bit part 🙂  Where do you write? A desk in your home, local café, a park with dancing bears wearing tutus?

Nancy:   I’m actually somewhat of a writing nomad. I write in different places around my house. I recently found this cool organizer file crate at Staples that has been wonderful for taking all my writing goodies with me from room to room.


Me:  Very cool! I really should get one of those. It’s like a physical, tangible version of Scrivener 🙂 What’s the best tip you could give aspiring authors? Eating chocolate doesn’t count!

Nancy:  First, surround yourself with great writing friends. It took me a VERY long time to finally have a book published (almost 20 years). I know I couldn’t have made it without my writing friends helping me to become a better writer, encouraging me to not give up, and just being plain old good friends.
Second, the most important things you need in order to be a writer are:
A. Patience B. Persistence C. Perseverance
Third, believe in yourself!

Me:  Great advice. Thanks for joining us here at The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy!


Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.
“A book that is full of surprises . . . Triumphant enough to make readers cheer; touching enough to make them cry.” – Kirkus

“Cavanaugh uses bold, often humorous first-person narration to capture the essence of an unconventional heroine struggling to figure out who she is supposed to be. Ratchet’s journal-written on lined paper and filled with a medley of lists, poems, stories, essays, and doodles-offers an enticing blend of strong social views, family secrets, and deeply felt emotions.” – Publishers Weekly

Sounds like a fun read, right? How would you like to win a copy?  Well, just fill out the rafflectoper form below and leave a blog post comment and you might be our lucky winner!

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Amie Borst and her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie, write fairy tales with a twist. Book one in the Scarily Ever Laughter series, Cinderskella,  debuts October 26th, 2013.

  1. I’ve seen great reviews of this. It’s definitely on my ‘to buy’ list for the fall.

  2. I saw a copy at the bookstore and flipped through it. I have to say I had no idea it was literally a journal. That’s very original.
    Great interview and I might just hunt down that filing crate at Staples.

  3. Great Interview! This sounds like a great book. I cannot wait to read it and share it with my students. I love to hear more about the author’s process and tools!

  4. Excellent interview. I appreciate the three “P”s of becoming a published writer. Thanks for continuing to give me inspiration and motivation to keep plugging away.

  5. Looking forward to reading this! Thanks for sharing your story, and writing insights!

  6. Amie,
    Thanks for sharing another terrific interview.

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your writing and your debut novel. After reading your interview, I immediately went to my public library’s website and downloaded an ebook version to add into my ever-expanding to-read list! 🙂

  7. This looks so original!

  8. Congratulations. This looks like an interesting book. Thanks for sharing your insights on sticking with it!!!

  9. Great interview. I like the portable project–very smart and I will be borrowing this idea because as much as I’d like to keep as much tucked into the cloud, I have my random pieces of papers, etc.

    Girl mechanic? sold. And the form of storytelling very much appeals to me. Looking forward to reading about Ratchett, thanks for the introduction!

  10. I’m eagerly awaiting this book – I hear good things. Fantastic interview. Would love to ask the author some of her TV shows that she drew inspiration from — no shame in that if it leads to creativity and stories 🙂