Swing Sideways is a story about love, friendship, and hope that takes place when two girls meet at the exact moment when they need each other the most. They quickly develop a friendship that will rival that of Tom and Huck, Jess and Leslie, or Charlotte and Wilbur. It is a book that will make you want to call your best friend, then go out and pick a basketful of wild berries and dip your toes in the cool water of a creek. It is a book that will show you how your life can change in one instant when the truth of a well kept secret is revealed. School Library Journal said, “This is a summer neither Annabel nor readers will ever forget.”
Amie: Welcome to The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy! We’re so glad to have you hear today and learn more about you and your books. What lead you to become a children’s author? And why middle-grade books?
Nancy: When I was four we lived in England. Our neighbor gave me a vinyl record of Vivien Leigh (think Scarlett O’Hara) narrating the story of Peter Rabbit. I played that record over and over so many times, my older brother broke it in two so he didn’t have to listen anymore. (I have since forgiven him). Within minutes (like as soon as I stopped crying) I asked my mother to write down a story I wanted to tell, because I knew that by creating it myself, no one could take it away. I wrote my first “novel” when I was nine, and still have it, complete with crayon drawings of a wild horse. That same year, I read Black Beauty and when I closed it after reading the last page, I knew I would become an author someday.
It is such an honor to write for middle grade readers. Try this: ask an adult what their favorite book was when they were a kid. Don’t specify age. Nine times out of ten, they will give you the name of a book they read between the ages or 8 – 13. Why? Because those are the books that make or break us as readers. How awesome is it to be the author who changes a child’s life that way?
Another major factor for me was because I wanted to be able to teach kids about writing, and encourage them to tap into their own creativity. I can do this through presenting workshops in schools and libraries, which is something that makes my heart swing sideways.
Amie: Wow! Older brothers can be tough like that, can’t they? Admittedly, so can moms. I remember when my children would insist on listening to a song or watching the same movie repeatedly, I’d hide the cd or dvd so I wouldn’t have to endure it just “one more time.” I know, I know. *hangs head in shame*
I love that you recognize how important middle-grade books are and their lasting impact on readers. Why are you the perfect person to tell Annabel’s story in Swing Sideways?
Nancy: Annie is a dreamer who was being stuffed into a mold by outside influences (Mom, Dad, teachers, school friends, Tommy, a resort community, etc). In order for Annie to discover who she truly is as a person, and in order for her to have the strength and courage to break free and fly solo, the person who told her story had to know how it felt to be her from the inside. There had to be a friend like California to give her “permission” to be herself, to accept her for who she was and not what someone else wanted her to be, to show her how it looked to march to her own beat. We all need a California in our lives at that age. Perhaps part of Swing Sideways was written out of my need to go back and change some of the things I didn’t like about myself at that time in my own life, and who else can do that but me?
Amie: Change has to come from within. It’s important for readers to recognize that at every age. If you could visit any place on earth where would it be?
Nancy: Scotland. I know that probably sounds unimaginative to some, but my ancestors come from Scotland. There is a remarkable story about one of them, Robert St. Clair, who, as a little boy, was kidnapped by gypsies and taken by ship . . . oh, wait, I can’t tell you that story just yet. Anyway, I am now living in the place where I was always meant to be, so I would love to see some of the old castles and craggy cliffs and shores of Scotland where part of my family’s history originates.
Amie: I think that would be an incredible place to visit! Last question, Nancy. It’s an important one so pay attention. Mashed potatoes and gravy or rice and beans?
Nancy: Totally mashed potatoes and gravy. And, if I’m not feeling too terribly fat, a nice big pat of sweet cream butter between the potatoes and the gravy would be like digging in to a piece of Heaven.
Amie: I’m suddenly very hungry. Maybe I’ll cook up some…*focus, Amie, focus!* Oh, I mean, thanks for joining us here at The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy!
Nanci Turner Steveson writes for middle grade readers and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She studied under the mentorship of award winning authors Kathi Appelt, Patty Lee Gauch, and Bethany Hegedus.
At home in Wyoming, Nanci is on the Board of Directors of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, and is the Teen Creative Writing Instructor at the Teton County Library in Jackson Hole. She works as a Stage Manager for Off Square Theatre Company, with her heart tied closest to the annual Youth Musical Production. One of Nanci’s greatest ambitions is to work with kids and inspire them to become two-fisted readers, like herself, and allow their own creativity to soar through the beauty of creative writing.
A life-long horse girl, Nanci lives in a historic meadow cabin in the shadow of the Teton mountains with two horses, two dogs, and an assortment of elk, moose, great gray owls and the occasional black bear who wander down from the national forest outside her back door. After a profound experience in 2009, Nanci is dedicated to getting books into the hands of homeless people, especially in shelters that house children, through her Literacy for Hope Project.
Swing Sideways (HarperCollins), Nanci’s debut novel has received stellar reviews from important publications and was launched in May, 2016. Her second novel, Georgia Rules, is scheduled for publication May 2, 2017. She is represented by Al Zuckerman, the founder of Writers House, LLC. www.writershouse.com, and can also be reached through her website at www.nanciturnersteveson.com
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